Canons of Nicaea
"Canons of Nicaea" in 1996 The Church of the Ancient Councils: The Disciplinary Work of the First Four Ecumenical Councils. Translated and edited by Archbishop Peter L'Huillier, pp. 31-84.
If anyone has been maimed by doctors at the time of an illness or has been castrated by barbarians, let him remain a cleric; but if anyone, already being a cleric and in good health, castrates himself, he must be excluded from the clergy and in the future no such person shall be ordained. As it is obvious that what has been said above concerns those who castrate themselves, the ruling permits, therefore, those who have been made eunuchs by barbarians or by their masters to become clerics if on other grounds they are judged to be worthy.
Whether by necessity or by the weight of human frailties, several things have come about contrary to the general order of the Church. Thus, spiritual washing has been given and, along with this baptism, the episcopate or the priesthood has been given to men who have only been recently received from pagan life to the faith and have not been sufficiently instructed. It seems right and proper that such things not happen anymore. These men, in effect, must remain catechumens for a certain time and after baptism submit to a still longer period of probation. The apostolic statement in this matter is very clear: "Let him not be a neophyte for fear that by pride he fall into judgment and into the trap of the devil" (1 Tim 3:6). If during this probation period, he is found to be guilty of some fault affecting his soul and that is attested to by two or three witnesses, let him be excluded from the clergy. If anyone acts contrary to this ordinance, as much as he opposes himself in that to the great council, he is in danger of being excluded from the clergy.
The great council absolutely forbids any bishop, priest, deacon, or any other member of the clergy to have a woman living with him, unless she is a mother, a sister, an aunt, or any other woman completely above suspicion.
It is preferable that a bishop be established by all the bishops of a province, but if this appears difficult, because of a pressing necessity or because of the distance to be traveled, at least three bishops should come together, and having the written consent of the absent bishops, they may then proceed with the consecration. The confirmation of what takes place falls to the metropolitan bishop of each province.
Concerning those who have been excommunicated, either among the clergy or among the laity, let the sentence that was given by the bishops of each province remain in force; let this be in conformity with the regulation that requires that those so excluded by the bishops must not be received by others. But let each case be examined to see if those involved were excluded for a cowardly reason, from a quarrelsome spirit, or from some feeling of dislike on the part of the bishop. Therefore, so that a proper inquiry may take place, it seems good and proper that in each province there be a synod two times a year so that all bishops of the province sitting together may examine such questions and thus those who, according to the general opinion, may have disobeyed their bishop will be properly considered as excommunicate by all until such time as all the bishops see fit to render a more merciful sentence. Let the synods be held as follows: one before the fortieth day so that, all cowardly feelings being set aside, a pure offering may be made to God; the second during the fall.
Let the ancient customs be maintained in Egypt, in Libya, and in the Pentapolis so that the bishop of Alexandria has authority over all these territories, since for the bishop of Rome there is a similar practice and the same thing concerning Antioch; and in other provinces, let the prerogatives of churches (of the capitals) be safeguarded.
Moreover, let this matter be completely clear: if anyone becomes a bishop without the consent of the metropolitan, the great council decrees that such a person is not even a bishop. In addition if after a common vote of all has taken place knowingly and in conformity with the church regulation, two or three, for reasons of personal ill will, refuse the decision, then let everyone go along with the majority vote.
Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed according to which the bishop of Aelia [Capitolina, i.e., Jerusalem] is honored, let him enjoy the honor that flows from his position, while the dignity proper to the metropolitan [in Caesarea] is safeguarded.
Concerning those who have called themselves "the pure ones," if they ever want to come into the catholic and apostolic Church en masse, it seems right and proper to the holy and great council that they, after having received the imposition of hands, should then remain in the clergy. But first it is important that they promise in writing to accept and to follow the rulings of the catholic Church, that is, they will have communion with those who have been married a second time and with those who renounced the faith during persecution for whom a period (of penance) has been established and a date (of reconciliation) set. It is, therefore, necessary that they follow in full the rulings of the catholic and apostolic Church.
Consequently, when in the cities or villages, there are only clerics ordained by these "pure ones," let them keep their status; on the other hand, where there is a bishop or priest of the catholic Church, if certain ones of these "pure ones" want to be admitted, it is evident that the bishop of the Church should keep the dignity of the bishop. As for the person who carried the name of bishop among the so-called pure ones, he is to have the rank of priest unless the bishop consents to allow him to receive the honor of his title. But if he is not so disposed, let the bishop give him a place as a chorepiscopus [i.e., a "circuit bishop"] or of a priest so that he can appear as being integrated into the clergy. Without this provision, there would be two bishops in the city.
If certain men have been made priests without inquiry, or if having been examined, they acknowledged the sins committed by them and despite this confession, some other men acting against the canon impose hands on such people, the canon does not admit them because the catholic Church requires unquestionable conduct and character
If anyone who has renounced the faith has been promoted to the clergy, whether because the bishops did not know about the apostasy or because they did not take it into account, the church canon is not lessened by either reason, for as soon as these men are discovered, they are to be deposed.
About those who have renounced the faith during the tyranny of Licinius without having been forced, without having lost their property, without having faced dangers or anything of the sort, it has been decided by the holy council that although not being worthy of mercy, nonetheless, we will make use of gentleness in their cases. Consequently, those among them who were baptized and manifest a real repentance must re-
Those who, being called by grace and being obedient to its first movement, have laid aside their sword belts who have later on, like dogs returning to their vomit, even gone so far as to pay money and give gifts to be reinstated in the military service, all those persons must remain among the prostraters during ten years, after a period of three years as hearers. But it is good and proper to examine their attitudes and their way of being penitent. In effect, those among them who with fear, tears, submission and good works show that their change of mind was real and not simply on the surface, when they have passed the prescribed time among the hearers, then they can participate in the prayers (of the faithful); it is even up to the bishop to treat them with more leniency. As for those who endure their penance with indifference and judge that the procedure set out for being readmitted into the Church is sufficient for expiation, those persons are to be required to do penance for the full time required.
We must now observe the ancient and canonical law with regard to those who are about to die, so that if someone is about to die, he must not be deprived of the last and very necessary sacrament. If, after being in a hopeless state, having received communion and participated in the oblation, he gets well, let him be placed with those who participate only in the prayer. As a general rule, for all persons about to die and who ask to receive the Eucharist, let the bishop, after inquiry, allow them to participate in the offering.
As for catechumens who renounce the faith, the holy and great council has decided that during three years they should be only hearers and that after that they may pray with the catechumens.
Because of the great agitation and troubles that have recently occurred, it has been decided to abolish completely the custom that, contrary to the rule, has been introduced in certain places, so that it is forbidden for a bishop, priest, or deacon to go from one city to another. If anyone, after the decree of the holy and great council, dares to attempt such a thing or busies himself in actually doing it, his scheme will be struck with absolute nullity, and he will be reinstalled in the church for which he was ordained bishop, priest, or deacon.
Priests and deacons or, in general, any member of the clergy who have the audacity, not considering the fear of God and not knowing the Church's rule, to abandon their churches, must not under any circumstances be received in another church but, by all means, must be forced to return to their proper communities and, if they refuse, they are to be properly excommunicated.
In addition, if anyone dares to take someone who is under the authority of another bishop and to ordain him in his own church without the consent of the bishop in whose clergy he was enrolled, let the ordination be regarded as null.
Seeing that many of those enrolled in the clergy, being full of greed and of a shameful, money-grubbing spirit, have forgotten the sacred word which says that "he did not give his money out for interest" (Ps 15:5) and who in lending out their money require a certain percentage in return, the holy and great council has judged that if anyone, after the publication of this decree, takes interest for a loan or, for whatever reason, holds back half the loan or invents another thing with the mind to realize a shameful profit, he shall be deposed from the clergy and taken off the clergy list.
It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great council that in certain places and in certain cities, deacons distribute communion to priests, although it is contrary to the rule and custom to allow the Body of Christ to be given to one who has the power to offer it by someone who does not; it has equally been learned that certain deacons take communion even before bishops. Therefore, let all this come to an end, and let deacons stay within the limits of their assigned roles, remembering that, on the one hand, they are the servers of the bishops and, on the other, they are inferior to the priests. Consequently, let them receive the Eucharist according to their order after the priests, whether it be the bishop or the priest who gives it to them. Deacons are likewise not permitted to sit among the priests because that is contrary to the rule and order. If someone after these decisions does not want to submit to them, let him be suspended from the diaconate.
Concerning the Paulinianists who return to the catholic Church, a decree has been adopted according to which they must absolutely be rebaptized. If some of them were before members of their clergy, they may, after being rebaptized, be ordained by the bishop within the catholic Church on condition, however, that they appear without stain and blameless. But if an inquiry shows that they are unacceptable, they are to be properly deposed. The same principle is to be observed for the deaconesses and, in general, for all the members of the clergy. We have mentioned the deaconesses serving in this condition although they have not received the imposition of hands, and they must absolutely be counted among the laity.
Seeing that certain people kneel on Sunday and during the Pentecost season, so that there might be the same practice in all the communities, it has been decided by the holy council that all prayers should be addressed to the Lord standing up.