Seventh Ecumenical Council, Canon 12.previous | next
If any Bishop or any Abbot be found disposing of productive property of the bishopric or monastery respectively into the hands of lay rulers, or of any other person, the transfer is to be invalid and void, in accordance with the Apostolic Canon saying: “Let the Bishop have the care of all ecclesiastical matters and let him manage them on the understanding that God is overseeing and supervising. Let him not be allowed to appropriate anything therefrom or to give God’s things to his relatives. If they be indigent, let him provide for them as indigents, but let him not trade off things of the Church under this pretext.” If it be alleged as an excuse that the property is actually a liability involving a loss or overall expense and that the fields are not rendering any profit or benefit, even so the place must not be sold or let out to the civil rulers of the region, but to Clergymen or to farmers (i.e., husbandmen). But if by employing some cunning rascality, a civil ruler should buy the fields from a Clergyman or a farmer, even so let the sale be invalid and void, and let the property be restored to the Bishopric, or to the Monastery, as the case may be, and let the Bishop, or the Abbot, respectively, who does this be driven out — the Bishop out of the Bishopric, and the Abbot out of the Monastery — on the ground that they are plundering wrongfully what they did not gather together.
(Ap. cc. XXXVIII, XLI; c. XXVI of the 4th; c. XI of the 7th; c. VII of the lst-&-2nd; c. XV of Ancyra; c. VII of Gangra; cc. XXIV, XXV of Antioch; cc. XXXIV, XLI of Carthage; c. X of Theophilus; c. II of Cyril.)
By the phrase “productive property” is meant all those things that produce an income, and especially real estate: such as arable fields, vineyards, olive groves, etc. So as concerning these things the present Canon decrees that if anyone who should alienate them, as bishop from the bishopric, or an abbot from a monastery, and turn them over to civil rulers, either by sale or by exchange, any such transfer is to remain invalid and of no effect, and the things are to revert to the bishopric or monastery, as the case may be, just as Ap. c. XXXVIII decrees, which the present Canon quotes verbatim and in full. But if it should happen that the bishop or abbot alleges that such or such a field, or vineyard, is not producing any income or profit, but rather a loss, let them sell it, not to civil rulers and autocrats, but to clergymen or farmers, men, that is to say, who are humble and paltry. But if by employing some villainy they should first have given them to the latter with the object of letting them be taken from them later by a civil ruler, this sale is to be invalid and void, while the bishop who has sold the property in such a manner is to be ousted from the bishopric, and any abbot who has done so is to be ousted from the monastery, because they have wrongfully dissipated and lost the property which had been rightfully gathered together and consecrated by others. See also the Interpretation of Ap. c. XXXVIII.
 It is found worded “things of God” in other manuscripts.
 The reason why the Canon does not want things of the churches or monasteries to be sold to civil rulers, but only to clergymen or farmers, it seems to me, is this: These things have been consecrated to God, and whatever has been consecrated is also called sacred and churchly. In respect, then, that they are sacred, they ought to be given to priests and men consecrated to God, such as clergymen are; while in respect, on the other hand, that they are churchly, they ought to be given to “churchly,’’ or poor, men, such as farmers are. Hence such giving is analogous with the “takers,” or recipients, just as, on the contrary, were they to be given to civil rulers, the transfer would be altogether unbecoming, both on the score of their not being sacred persons, and on the score of their not being poor or “churchly” persons. But perhaps the Canon says that these things may be sold only to farmers and poor persons, in order that the church or monastery, as the case may be, may buy them back from them in case it should hereafter find the means of doing so, which it could not easily do if they were sold to rich persons. Note, however, that according to law and Blastaris, what is called the “disposal” of anything is the transfer of real or personal property to another owner or landlord that is made either as a gift or as a sale or by implantation or by exchange, or in any other similar way — which amounts to saying, when the property is completely alienated and given to another. What is called “letting out” is when anything is given, not completely and forever, but only for a time to certain persons. Letting out, however, is also improperly called disposal, and conversely, disposal is also improperly called letting out; just as this Canon has taken the terms letting out and disposal in the second sense. Notwithstanding, though, that present Canon does say that things belonging to churches or monasteries must not be alienated, Novel 120 of Justinian decrees that even fruit-bearing real estate belonging to churches or monasteries may be sold when there happens to be need of giving the proceeds for the liberation of Orthodox captives. See also the Footnotes to Ap. c. LXXII and c. XXIV of the 4th.
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