Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 160
The Council of Carthage (North Africa, AD 390) threatens with anathema excommunicated presbyters who dare to celebrate.
Canon 8
Vt excommunicatus presbyter, si sacrificare praesumpserit, anathematizetur.
Felix episcopus selemselitanus dixit: nec illud praetermittendum est, ut si quis forsitam presbyter ab episcopo suo correptus [aut excommunicatus], tumore uel superbia inflatus putauerit separatim deo sacrificia offerenda uel aliud erigendum altare, contra ecclesiasticam fidem disciplinamque crediderit agendum, non exeat impunitus.
Geneclius episcopus dixit: necessaria disciplinae ecclesiasticae et fidei congrua sunt quae frater noster Felix prosequutus est: proinde quid exinde uideatur uestrae dilectioni, edicite.
Ab uniuersis episcopis dictum est: si quis presbyter a praeposito suo [excommunicatus uel] correptus fuerit, debet utique apud uicinos episcopos conqueri ut ab ipsis eius causa possit audiri ac per ipsos suo episcopo reconciliari.
Quod nisi fecerit, sed superbia, quod absit, inflatus, secernendum se ab episcopi sui communione duxerit ac separatim cum aliquibus schisma faciens sacrificium deo obtulerit, [loco amisso] anathema habeatur.
Nihilominus et de ciuitate in qua fuerit longius depellatur, ne uel ignorantes uel simpliciter uiuentes serpentina fraude decipiat.
Secundum apostolum: ecclesia una est, una fides, unum baptisma.
Et si quaerimoniam iustam aduersus episcopum habuerit, inquirendum erit.
(ed. Munier 1974: 15-16)
Canon 8
If an excommunicated presbyter dares to celebrate, he should be anathematised.
Felix, bishop of Selemsela, said: We should not allow, if a presbyter censured [or excommunicated] by his bishop, inflated by his pride, thought that he could offer God's sacrifice separately or erect another altar, believing that he could act against the ecclesiastic faith and discipline, that he should go unpunished.
Bishop Geneclius said: What our brother Felix said is necessary for the ecclesiastical discipline, and consonant with the faith; therefore, please declare what you think about it.
All the bishops said: if a presbyter was [excommunicated or] censured by his superior, he should refer to neighbouring bishops so that his cause may be heard by them and he can be reconciled with his bishop through them.
But if he did not do it, and, God forbid!, inflated by pride, he separated himself from the bishop of his communion and separately, with others, offered to God sacrifice, creating a schism, [dismissed from that place] he will be anathematised. He should also be removed far from the city in which he lived, so that the ignorant and the simple were not deceived by the devilish fraud.
As the Apostle said: there is one church, one faith, one baptism.
And if he has genuine grievances against his bishop, there should be an inquiry into it.
(trans. S. Adamiak)


The canon gives several pieces of information. It underlines the difference between a simple excommunication and full anathema, which will fall upon presbyters who dare to say the Mass despite having been excommunicated. They will also be made to leave their town. The expressions about the schism and "erecting" another altar suggest the possibility that such excommunicated clerics may collude with the Donatists. However, the appeal procedure for the presbyters is established: they should refer to other bishops and hope for their judgement and intercession.

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Carthage

About the source:

Title: Council of Carthage 390, Concilium Carthaginense a. 390, Concilium Carthaginis Africae secundum
Origin: Carthage (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The plenary council of Catholic bishops of Africa gathered in Carthage in AD 390. It was chaired by the bishop of Carthage, Geneclius, but his archdeacon and successor, Aurelius, was also present. It was the first of a long series of African councils of the late 4th and early 5th centuries.
Ch. Munier ed., Concilia Africae a. 345-a. 525, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 149, Turnhoult 1974.


Change of denomination
    Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
      Ritual activity - Eucharist
        Public law - Ecclesiastical
          Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
            Relation with - Heretic/Schismatic
              Administration of justice - Excommunication/Anathema
                Administration of justice - Exile
                  Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER160,