Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 29
Augustine of Hippo writing to the Church of Memblibanum considers presbyter Gitta, who serves there, unworthy of any clerical position, as he was already deprived of the grade of a deacon. Augustine, Letter 18*, North Africa, early 5th century.
Letter 18*
1. Bene cito apparuit quod uobis dicebam qui mecum eratis Vnapompei non uos debere petere presbyterum Gitta, de cuius uita ualde sollicitus eram, sed hoc per uos deus agebat, quod nesciebatis idem, ut etiam de ipso clero ecclesiae quae est Vnapompei per uestram occasionem tolleretur ubi diaconus erat, quia sicut manifestatus est nec diaconus esse debebat. Si enim aliqua <uera> sunt quae de illo mulier dixit, factum est; si autem illa etiam peierat et hoc solum de isto uerum est quod ipse confessus est, nec is esse clericus potest, quoniam omnes christiani, quanto magis clerici non solum ab illicito concubitu puri esse debent, uerum etiam ab illicito osculo et ab illicito amplexu et ab omni inmunditia.
2. In his ergo quoniam iste non est mundus inuentus secundum etiam confessionem suam, necesse habuimus eum de gradu presbyterii remouere. Consoletur uos dominus, quoniam pro tristitia uestra ualde tristes sumus; omnes uos ergo consoletur eius misericordia qui uos collegit et de dominio diaboli eripuit, quia uos non deserit, si nec uos eum deseratis. Quaerite ergo quis uobis presbyter ordinetur aut, si uos non inuenitis, nos in nomine domini et in eius adiutorio prouidemus.
3. [...] presbyterum Restitutum cum his litteris ad uos misi quem uix consolatus sum maiore tristitia conturbatum, per quem dominus et uos consoletur, sicut etiam ipsum per me consolatus est.
(ed. Divjak 1981:  89-90)
Letter 18*
1. It was quite quickly evident, as I told those of you who were with me at Unapompei, that you ought not to ask for Gitta as presbyter, since I was very concerned about his manner of life. But God was bringing about by means of you something you did not know. For, at the occasion which you provided, this same man was also removed from the clergy of the church of Unapompei, where he was a deacon, because, being the sort of man he was shown to be, he ought not even to have been a deacon. For, if some of those things that the woman said of him are true, the situation has been taken care of, but if she committed perjury and the only thing that is true in his regard is what he himself admitted, he still cannot be a cleric, because all Christians—and clerics even more so—ought to refrain not only from illicit intercourse but also from illicit kisses, from illicit embraces, and from all impurity.
2. Since this man was, according to his own admission, found not to be pure in these matters, we necessarily had to remove him from the rank of the presbyterate. May the Lord console you, for we are very sad because of your sadness. May he, therefore, console all of you by the mercy of him who has gathered you together and rescued you from the dominion of the devil, because he will not abandon you if you do not abandon him. Look for someone, therefore, who might be ordained a priest for you, or, if you do not find someone, we will provide one in the name of the Lord and by his help.
3. [...] With this letter I have sent you the priest Restitutus. I found it difficult to console him, since he was suffering from a greater sadness. But may the Lord also console you by him, just as he was consoled by me.
(trans. R. Teske, slightly altered)


Augustine reminds the people of Memblibanum that they have asked for the ordination of Gitta. Gitta was a deacon before and was accused of a sexual misbehaviour by a certain woman (this is very probably an affair mentioned in Letter 13*, [8]). Augustine is not sure if all the accusations are true, but he says that even the things confessed by Gitta himself are enough to expel him from the ranks of clergy, which Augustine did. He mentions also that all Christians, but especially clerics, should abstain not only from illicit sexual intercourses, but from everything that may endanger chastity.
The letter is carried by presbyter Restitutus whose presence should in some way "console" the citizens of Memblibanum.
It seems that both Memblibanum and Unapompei belong to the diocese of Hippo; otherwise it would be difficult to understand the right of Augustine to demote Gitta.

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Memblibanum
  • Unapompei
  • Hippo Regius

About the source:

Author: Augustine of Hippo
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Hippo Regius (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The letters of Augustine of Hippo cover a wide range of topics: Holy Scripture, dogma and liturgy, philosophy, religious practice and everyday life. They range from full-scale theological treatises to small notes asking someone for a favour. The preserved corpus includes 308 letters, 252 written by Augustine, 49 that others sent to him and seven exchanged between third parties. 29 letters have been discovered only in the 20th century and edited in 1981 by Johannes Divjak; they are distinguished by the asterisk (*) after their number.
The preserved letters of Augustine extend over the period from his stay at Cassiciacum in 386 to his death in Hippo in 430.
J. Divjak ed., Sancti Aureli Augustini Epistolae ex duobus codicibus nuper in lucem prolatae, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, v. 88, Wien, 1981.
J. Divjak ed., Saint Augustin. Lettres 1*-29*, Bibliothèque Augustinienne 46B. Paris 1987.


Family life - Concubinage
    Sexual life - Extramarital
    Sexual life - Other condemned
      Ecclesiastical transfer
      Former ecclesiastical career - Deacon
      Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
      Reasons for ordination - Pastoral needs of the Christian community
      Impediments or requisits for the office - Improper/Immoral behaviour
      Ecclesiastical administration - Ecclesiastical envoy
      Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
      Administration of justice - Demotion
      Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER29,