The First Ecumenical Council, Canon 3.previous | next
The great Council has forbidden generally any Bishop or Presbyter or Deacon, and anyone else at all among those in the clergy, the privilege of having a subintroducta. Unless she is either a mother, or a sister, or an aunt, or a person above suspicion.
(c. V of the 6th; c. XXIII of the 7th; c. XIX of Ancyra; C. XIX of Carthage; c. LXXXVIII of Basil.)
Men in holy orders and clergymen ought not to cause the laity any suspicion or scandal. On this account the present Canon ordains that this great Council — the First Ecumenical, that is to say — has entirely forbidden any bishop or presbyter or deacon or any other clergyman to have a strange woman in his house, and to live with her, excepting only a mother, or a sister, or an aunt, or other persons that do not arouse any suspicion.
The ordinance of the first title of the Novels, which is Justinian Novel 123, says as follows: “We too forbid, in accordance with the power of the divine Canons presbyters and deacons and subdeacons and all other clergymen that have no lawful wife to keep any strange woman in their house. Except that they may keep a mother, a daughter, and a sister, and any other persons that are exempt from suspicion. If, however, anyone fails to observe these rules, but, even after reminded by the prelate or by his fellow clergymen, he refuses to throw the woman out whom he has been keeping, or, after being accused, he is proved to be associating with her indecently, such a man shall be deposed, and shall be turned over to the civil authorities of that city where he is serving as a clergyman.” But if a bishop lives with a woman at all, he shall be deposed. Note two things here, though: one, that those who have unsuspectable persons in their home, as we have said, namely, a mother, or a sister, or an aunt, or other, must not at the same time have also suspicious persons serving, not them, but those unsuspectable persons; because again in this manner they become violators and incur the penalties prescribed by the Canons. Instead, they ought either to serve themselves, or have servants to serve them who are unsuspectable. Another thing is that monks ought not to live with unsuspectable persons alone when they have such. Because if the above-mentioned c. XXII of the 7th prohibits one from eating with his female relatives only, who are unsuspectable, how much more does it not prohibit them from living with them? For Basil the Great says (in his discussion of virginity) that the pleasure of flesh has overcome even brothers and sisters born of the same mother and has led to every sort of sin against mothers and daughters, just as it stigmatized also Amnon, the son of David, as a result of his debauching his own sister Tamar (II Sam. ch. 13), because the seductive and magnetic power of sexual love of men for women, which has been placed in men’s bodies, in defiance, he says, of every right reasoning — such as, let us say, that she is a mother, or a sister, or an aunt — spontaneously and all on their own initiative prompts the mingling of bodies of men with bodies of women, regardless of whether they are strangers or relatives, and in spite of the fact that their inward thoughts struggling against it are averse thereto.
 Not only do ecumenical and regional councils commonly blame and place under a penance those clergymen, or even laymen, who have strange women in their home, whether it be in order to have them do work as servants, as was presbyter Gregory against whom Basil the Great complains, or it be that as an excuse they are alleged to be unprotected and have no one to provide for them, but also separately as individuals every one of the divine Fathers took care to stigmatize this evil. For St. Gregory the Theologian in his epic verses wonders and is at a loss among whom to class those who keep women in their house or have women staying with them in their home, whether they ought to class them among married men, or among unmarried and virgin men, or in a middle group between married men and virgin men; on which account he says:
“As for the subintroductors, as all of them allege indeed, I know not whether to allow them a marriage, or to keep them with the unmarried. Or to place them in the middle somewhere between both these groups. For I at any rate will not praise this thing even though I be criticized.”
The saint of the same name, Gregory of Nyssa, in his discussion of virginity, finds fault with such persons and says: “They not only provide their belly with whatever gives it pleasure, but they even cohabit openly with women, and call such living together a fraternity.” Divine Chrysostom (discourse on those having subintroductae, p. 214 of vol. vi) says the following: “There are some who take virgin girls without a marriage and intercourse, place them in their home permanently, and live with them continuously until extreme old age, not for the sake of giving birth to children (since they claim not to have any sexual intercourse with them), not for the sake of fornication and licentiousness (because they claim to be keeping them virgins and chaste). But if one were to ask them for what reason they are doing this, they have a lot of excuses to offer in reply; yet they have no reasonable and decent excuse. For the real reason of their living with these girls in this fashion is none other than a passionate craving and pleasure which affords them a more intense and vehement sexual appeal than that enjoyed by men living with a lawful wife. Because a wife allows the man living with her unrestricted intercourse and allays vehement sexual love, and often leads the man to satiety of pleasure and inhibits unlimited desire; besides these differences, there are also the parturient pangs of a lawful wife, the inconveniences of giving birth to children, and bringing them up, and the illnesses and weaknesses which she incurs from all these causes ultimately wither the flower of her beauty, and consequently make the center of pleasure less attractive to the man. But in the case of the subintroducta virgin these consequences do not follow. For neither sexual intercourse with her can make the man living with her abate the passionateness of his irresistible desire, nor do parturient pangs and child-rearing wither their flesh; on the contrary such women retain their beauty for many years, because of their remaining untouched by any of the causes destructive of their beauty we have mentioned; in fact they get to be forty years old and nevertheless appear as pretty as girls and young women who have not yet made their debut. Hence a double desire is aroused in men living with such girls, first, because they do not allay their passionate craving and lust for them with the act of mingling and indulgence in sexual intercourse, and secondly, because the object of their passionate craving remains for a long time at its prime and strongly provocative, which object is the pretty face and the beauty of the women. So, according to Basil the Great (ascetic ordinance 4), such men are so overcome by their passions that they have no feeling, but, instead, are like frenzied and drunken men. According to the same Chrysostom (discourse on the fact that an ascetic must not joke) they are all the time being wounded, all the time being preyed upon by wild beasts, all the time indulging in adultery (probably meaning fornication), and being rendered languid by exceeding the bounds of sobriety. And can it be said (asks the saint) that you are a senseless stone and are not scandalized (probably meaning tantalized)? You are a man subject to the passions of human nature. Well, then, how can it be thought possible for one to put fire inside his bosom, or to walk upon burning coals, without getting burnt, when he is an easily inflammable straw. Nevertheless, again Basil the Great (ascetic ordinance 4) says that even though we allow that he (sc. the one who is keeping subintroductas) is not irritated nor even tantalized by the passion of desire, yet if he be not suffering he cannot in spite of this easily persuade others that he is not actually suffering. But to scandalize the common run of men, without any show of virtue, is not without danger to one who does so. Besides, there is also another consequence to be reckoned with: even granting that the man himself is not injured by looking at the woman, it nevertheless cannot be maintained that the woman is not subject to the passions of the body. Hence she, either being weak in reasoning power or having a most acute passion, has conceived a passion of love for the man who has been so indiscreet as to associate with her; and though he himself has not been wounded, he has wounded her many times without even knowing it.” So in order to avoid having all these consequences follow, every man ought to guard himself, and if possible shun the company of women altogether, or if this is impossible, and he cannot avoid frequent and prolonged meetings with women, and of all others especially women that are leading a monastic life or have grown old as nuns. All clergymen as well as laymen, and especially monks and nuns; since nuns have the same trouble in fighting shy of monks, as monks have in fighting shy of nuns. That is why Abbas (i.e., abbot) Isaac, in admonishing a monk, tells him in addition to these things to avoid canonicae, that is to say, nuns, as though they were fire. But if saints forbid a man to associate with women and nuns, how much more do they not forbid him to live with them? These things which we have said in regard to men keeping subintroductae women, apply also to those who keep beardless young men in their house as subintroducti and are living with them. Hence it is that Gregory the great saint recommends in his epic verses that not only a virgin man, but every other man, and especially every clergyman and monk, should refrain from living with such young men. In fact he says verbatim:
“Beware of every male, but especially of having one as a subintroductus.”
In the ascetic discourse which Basil the Great composed concerning renunciation, he says: If you are a young man with respect to the body, or are an old man with respect to the body, but a young man with respect to sentiment, avoid association with young men as you would a flame. For the enemy having burnt up many men with a desire for such young men, consigned them to the everlasting fire after hurling them down into a yawning chasm of sodomites under the pretext of spiritual love. For those keeping such young men (as the same Basil says in his discourse concerning virginity) are excited to a desire for that object in particular to which they are naturally inclined by an erotic impulse, or, in other words, to a desire for a woman. Hence as a result of the relation they bear to what is natural, they are forced to violate the law with respect to what is unnatural, in seeking the female in the male. Being unable to attain their object, nor being themselves in any position to allay their absurd and improper erotic passion by unnaturally mingling with a male, they suffer the very same consequences as are suffered by those who keep subintroductae women. “For when they gaze” (says the same Basil in the above discourse concerning renunciation) “at the face of the beardless young men and receive a seed of desire from the enemy and sower of evils and woes commonly called the Devil, they reap sheaves of destruction and of perdition. The woes deserving many tears are also plainly visible to those who know history, for they have been time and again inflicted upon the world as a result of beardless young men. For many great lavras (i.e., monastic retreats) and monasteries have been wiped out, and the souls of many men have been swallowed up by Hades.”
 Note the present Novel and the above Canons.