Seventh Ecumenical Council, Canon 21.previous | next
A monk or nun must not leave his or her monastery or nunnery, respectively, and go away to another. But if this should occur, it is necessary that he or she be afforded a hospitable reception as a guest. But it is not fitting that he or she be entered without the approval of his abbot, or of her abbess, as the case may be.
(c. IV of the 4th; c. XIX of the 7th; cc. III, IV, V of the lst-&-2nd; c. LXXXVIII of Carthage.)
The present Canon decrees that a monk or nun must not leave that monastery or nunnery in which he or she, respectively, has been tonsured, and go to another. But if anyone should do this, such a one ought to be received as a guest and hospitably treated by the Fathers of that strange monastery (or the Mothers of that strange nunnery, as the case may be) for some days (lest as one not accorded a proper welcome he or she be compelled to betake himself or herself to the world and to associate with indifferent persons). Nevertheless, he or she must not be held to be enrolled in the brotherhood or sisterhood there, as the case may be, without the approval and a dimissory letter from his own abbot (or from her own abbess, if it be a nun).
Canon IV of the lst-&-2nd C. excommunicates any monk who departs from his monastery and goes to another monastery, or to a worldly shelter, and even the person who welcomes and admits him, except only in case the prelate wished to transfer him to a different location, either for improvement of another monastery or for salvation of some family. For in that case the monks and those admitting him are not responsible. Moreover, c. LXXXVIII of Carthage commands that a stranger must not communicate with a monk unless the laity themselves with that bishop who has admitted him from a monastery belonging to another province and makes him a cleric, or an abbot of his own monastery, and the monk in question, it says, shall be neither a cleric nor an abbot. And c. IV of the 4th decrees that monks must not leave their monasteries unless they be allowed to do so by the bishop for a necess
 The imperial laws also decree the following supplementary provision: that parents may not take those children of theirs away from monasteries who have chosen the monastic life, but must nevertheless bestow upon them whatever legacy belongs to them, even though any cause (i.e., blame or accusation) had been incurred by them previous to their becoming monks (or nuns). Read also the testimony of St. Chrysostom in the Footnote to c. XV of Gangra.
 In view of the fact that the present Canon was set forth and promulgated in. an indefinite manner, without exhibiting the reasons on account of which one may depart from his monastery, after doing as much research as we could, we discovered the following reasons, to wit: 1) a monk may depart from his monastery if the abbot is a heretic, according to c. XVII of Nicephorus; 2) if women enter the monastery, according to the same c. of Nicephorus; 3) if worldly children are being taught letters in the monastery; since through these children whatever occurs in the monastery becomes published abroad, according to the same Canon of Nicephorus — add also that it is on account of the scandal arising therefrom. But Basil the Great (see his Def. in Ext., No. 36) allows a monk to depart from his monastery only for one reason, which is to say, if he has any psychical injury which, he says, he ought first to reveal to those possessing the power or ability to correct it, and if they fail to correct, then he is to separate, no longer as from brethren, but as from strangers. But if any monk on account of the unsettled condition and frivolity of his mind, and not, that is to say, on account of any injury, departs from his monastery, he must either cure this illness and unsettled condition, by persisting in the monastery, or, if he is unwilling to be cured in this manner, he is to be refused admittance to any other monastery. Another reasonable cause for separation and departure, however, is mentioned by the same Saint: reason and teaching will admit no excuse other than injury of the soul — that is to say, the reason we have mentioned (but if on account of the Lord's commandment another brother goes to another place, these brethren are not separating from each other, but, on the contrary, they are fulfilling an economy). In agreement with divine Basil c. VI of Nicephorus also decrees that if anyone is injured psychically, he ought to tell about his injury to the prior, and if he fails to correct it, yet the danger is evident, let him depart from the monastery. Even though the abbot places him under bond not to depart, he must pay no attention to this bond, but must depart anyhow. Some authorities also add another reasonable cause for departure, viz., if at any time any obedientiary and coenobite should prove worthy for quietude; for then and in that case he may leave with the permission of the abbot, in order that he may converse with God alone all by himself, in accordance with what John of the Climax says (in his discourse concerning obedience). Nevertheless, close attention must be paid to this point, since it is not for every monk that departure and quietude are possible. So much for voluntary departure. For against his will and involuntarily even an abbot may be driven from his monastery and shut up in another if he accepts money for admitting those who intend to betake themselves to a monastic life, according to c. XIX of the present C. And one who is tonsured without a sponsor is sent to another monastery, according to c. II of the lst-&-2nd; and one who is tonsured without first undergoing three years' trial and test, according to c. V of the same. And with the object of improvement and correction, a prelate may transfer virtuous monks, according to c. IV of the same.
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