Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 97
Canon 2 of the First Council of Toledo (Iberian Peninsula, AD 400) forbids the ordination of penitents to orders higher than ostiarius and lector.
Canon 2
Ut poenitens, si necessitas cogat, lector aut ostiarius fiat
Item placuit, ut de poenitente non admittatur ad clerum, nisi tantum necessitas aut usus exegerit inter ostiarios deputetur vel inter lectores, ita ut evangelia et Apostolum non legant. Si qui autem ante ordinati sunt subdiacones inter subdiacones habeantur, ita ut manum non imponat aut sacra non contingant. Ex poenitente vero dicimus de eo, qui post babtismum aut pro homicidio aut pro diversis criminibus gravisimisque peccatis publicam poenitentiam gerens sub cilicio divino fuerit reconciliatus altario.
(ed. Vives 1963: 20)
Canon 2
That in case of necessity the penitent can be ordained lector or ostiarius
We command that the penitent shall not be admitted to the clergy. Only if the necessity or the practice requires it, let him become an ostiarius or lector, lest he read the Gospel or the Apostles. And if some penitents are already ordained subdeacons, let them stay among them, but they shall not impose hands or touch the sacred things. We call 'penitent' someone who after baptism having done public penance wearing cilice for homicide or for other various crimes and very serious sins is reconciled to the divine altar.
(trans. M. Szada)


The phrase "Si qui autem ante ordinati sunt subdiacones inter subdiacones habeantur, ita ut manum non imponat aut sacra non contingant." is difficult to interpret. It describes just a result of degradation, because subdeacons normally do not impose hands or touch the sacred things, or it orders the prevention of the penitent subdeacons from fulfilling some of their normal obligations (Weckwerth 2004: 135-136).
For more on the ecclesiastical legislation on public penitents see May 1961: 252-268.

Place of event:

  • Iberian Peninsula
  • Toledo

About the source:

Title: Council of Toledo I, Concilium Toletanum I, First Council of Toledo
Origin: Toledo (Iberian Peninsula)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The first council of Toledo was convened to deal with divisions among the Spanish episcopate caused by the conviction and execution of Priscillian in 385. Many people in Spain, the bishops among them, considered the judgement unfair and venerated Priscillian as a martyr. The acts of the council consist of the twenty canons with the preface and the subscriptions of the bishops, the creed (regula fidei) with 18 anathemas against Priscillian, the professions of faith declared by the former adherents of Priscillian and the closing sententia definitiva. The last two are excerpts from the full version of the conciliar acts which has not survived and has been transmitted in the manuscript tradition separate from canonical collection of Hispana (Chadwick 1976: 179-181; Burrus 1995: 104-105).
The date of the council is given in the beginning of the preface - it is the time of Arcadius and Honorius (then between 395-408) and of the consulship of Stilicho (400 or 405). The date given in the Spanish era is unreliable, because a lot of different versions survived in manuscripts. G. Martínez Díez and F. Rodríguez (1984: 326) thought that it was a later addition. Moreover, Ambrosius of Milan and Siricius are both already dead (the title sanctae memoriae is added before their names), therefore the council must have been held after 399. Also Hydatius in Chronicle dates the council to 400, so this is the most probable solution (Weckwerth 2004: 89-90).
G. Martínez Díez, F. Rodríguez, eds., La colección canónica Hispana, v. 4 Concilios Galos. Concilios Hispanos: primera parte, Madrid 1984.
J. Vives, Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos, Barcelona-Madrid 1963.
G. May, "Bemerkungen zu der Frage der Diffamation und der Irregularität der öffentlichen Büßer,” Münchener Theologische Zeitschrift 12 (1961), 252-268.
A. Weckwerth, Das erste Konzil von Toledo: philologischer und kirchenhistorischer Kommentar zur Constitutio concilii, Münster, Westfalen 2004.


Former ecclesiastical career - Unspecified clerical grade
    Impediments or requisits for the office - Improper/Immoral behaviour
      Public law - Ecclesiastical
        Shortage of clergy
          Impediments or requisits for the office - Public penance
            Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER97,