Fathers of the Church
Epistle XXXVII: to Romanus, Guardian
by Gregory the Great in 590-604 | translated by James Barmby, D.d
Gregory to Romanus, Guardian of Sicily.
It has come to our knowledge that, if any one has a suit against any clerics, thou causest these clerics to be brought before thee for judgment, setting at nought their bishops. If this be so, seeing that it is evidently very unsuitable, we order thee by this our authority that thou presume not to do it any more. But, if any one should have a suit against any cleric, let him go to his bishop, that either he may take cognizance himself, or at any rate that judges may be deputed by him; or, if it should be a case for arbitration, let the executive authority deputed by him compel the parties to choose a judge. But, if any cleric or lay person should have a suit against a bishop, then thou oughtest to interpose, so that either thou thyself mayest take cognizance of the matter between them or that on thy admonition they may choose for themselves judges. For, if each single bishop has not his own jurisdiction reserved to him, what else is done but that ecclesiastical order is confounded through us by whom it ought to be guarded?
Further, it has been reported to us that, certain clerics having been sent into penance for fault requiring it by our most reverend brother bishop John, thou hast on thy own authority, without his knowledge removed them from it. Now, if this is true, know that thou bast done a thing altogether unseemly, and calling for no light reproof. Wherefore restore these clerics without delay to their bishop. And beware of committing this fault in future: for, shouldest thou be inattentive, know that thou wilt incur our anger in no slight degree.
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.