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Fathers of the Church

Letter CCLXXXVI: to the Commentariensis

Description

This letter seeks to keep the state from interfering in Church matters. Basil is addressing the matter of some clothes stolen by vagabonds on Church property.

Provenance

St. Basil's correspondence is a copious and invaluable store of information for the history of the Eastern Church in the fourth century, particularly in Cappadocia. Since he never found a real biographer, his letters represent the best source for his life and times, for his many activities and far-reaching influence, especially for his personality and his character. (Quasten)

by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A

WHEREAS certain vagabonds have been arrested in the church for stealing, in defiance of God's commandment, some poor men's clothing, of little value otherwise, yet such as they had rather have on than off their backs; and whereas you consider that in virtue of your office you yourself should have the custody of the offenders:—I hereby declare, that I would have you know that for offences committed in the church it is our business to mete out punishment, and that the intervention of the civil authorities is in these cases superfluous. Wherefore, the stolen property, as set forth in the document in your possession and in the transcript made in the presence of eyewitnesses, I enjoin you to retain, reserving part for future claims, and distributing the rest among the present applicants.

As for the offenders,—that they be corrected in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. By this means I hope to work their successive reformations. For where the stripes of human tribunals have failed, I have often known the fearful judgments of God to be effectual. If it is, however, your wish to refer this matter also to the count, such is my confidence in his justice and uprightness that I leave you to follow your own counsels.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF II/VIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.