Fathers of the Church

Epistle VIII: to Columbus, Bishop of Numidia

Description

This epistle is from Book XII of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory charges Columbus with investigating the case of the deacon Donadeus, who was deposed for bodily sin.

Provenance

St. Gregory (b. 540 in Rome) was elected pope at the age of 50, serving from 590 to 604. In 14 years he accomplished much for the Church. England owes her conversion to him. At a period when the invasion of the barbarian Lombards created a new situation in Europe, he played a great part in winning them for Christ. At the same time, he watched equally over the holiness of the clergy and the maintenance of Church discipline, the temporal interests of his people of Rome and the spiritual interests of all Christendom. He removed unworthy priests from office, forbade the taking of money for many services, and emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and victims of plague and famine. Gregory also reformed the liturgy, and it still contains several of his most beautiful prayers. The name "Gregorian chant" recalls this great Pope's work in the development of the Church's music. His commentaries on Holy Scripture exercised a considerable influence on Christian thought in the Middle Ages. Following his death in 604, his numerous epistles, including the following letter, were compiled into the Papal Register of Letters.

by Gregory the Great in 590-604 | translated by James Barmby, D.d

Gregory to Columbus, &c.

How serious, and intolerable even to be beard of, is the complaint of Donadeus, the bearer of these presents, who describes himself as having been a deacon, will be made manifest to your Fraternity by the petition presented by him, which is contained in what is subjoined below. But, since it has come to our ears that he had been deposed for bodily sin, let your Love make full enquiry into this, and, if it is so, let him be consigned to penance, that be may free himself by tears from the bond of the profligacy of which he has been guilty. If, however, he should be proved innocent of any such transgression, all that his petition contains must be enquired into with diligent examination by you, together with the primate of the council, and others our brethren and fellow-bishops. And, if his complaint is supported by the truth, let both such strictness of canonical discipline be brought to bear on his bishop Victor, who has not lighted to commit so great a wickedness against God and his own priestly profession, that he may understand the wickedness of what he has done; and let the man himself be restored to his order: for it is indeed preposterous, and confessedly against ecclesiastical order, that any one whom his own fault or crime does not depose from the rank of the office which he fills should be deprived invalidly at the will of this or that person.

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. (LNPF II/XIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.