An Early Papal Document on Papal Authority

This work is called Adversus Aleatores, or De Aleatoribus, and it is principally about gamblers. Jean Danielou argues (p. 15, 93-98) that it was possibly written by Pope St. Victor I in the late 100s, but G.H. Joyce says it was written between 250 and ~350 A.D. The translation below combines partial translations from both authors. The selections from Chapters 1, 4, 10, and the second half of 3 (after the ellipsis) come from Joyce. The other selections come from Danielou.

The citation for the Danielou book is: Danielou, J. (1977). The Origins of Latin Christianity: A History of Early Christian Doctrine Before the Council of Nicea (Vol. 3, pp. 11, 14-15, 93-98). London: Darton, Longman & Todd.

Chapter 1

“A heavy charge is laid upon us, fellow-Christians, the care of the whole brotherhood. It is made yet heavier through the reckless wickedness of abandoned men who are drawing others into crime and involving themselves in the snares of death. It is gamblers to whom I refer. The fatherly goodness of God has bestowed on us the authority of the Apostolate; of His heavenly mercy He has ordained that we should occupy the chair by which we represent the Lord [Latin vicariam Domini]; through our predecessor we have as ours that source of the true apostolate on which Christ founded His Church, and we have received authority to bind and loose, and with due regard to reason forgive sins. And on these very grounds we are warned by the doctrine of salvation to take heed, lest if we constantly overlook the faults of sinners we suffer with them a like penalty.”

Chapter 2

“Holy Scripture says: Woe to the shepherds! But if the same shepherds are found to be neglectful, what will they reply to the Lord about the flocks? What will they say? Will they say that they have been harried by the flock? No one will believe them. It is impossible to believe that a shepherd can be made to suffer anything by the flock. And there will be greater unity because of their falsehood. ... Regard the priest as a worshipper and think of all the delights of full granaries being near him, so that my people will eat as much as they want.”

Chapter 3

“We have received the Holy Spirit as a guest in our hearts. Do not grieve the one who dwells with you. ... The Lord warns us and says, ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit who is in you,’ (Ephesians 4:30?) and ‘Quench not the light which has shined in you’ (1 Thessalonians 5:19?).”

Chapter 4

“And in another place [it is written]: ‘If any brother lives after the manner of the Gentiles and is guilty of deeds like unto theirs, cease to be of his company. And unless thou do this thou shalt be a partaker in his works.’ ” (Herm. Mand. 4, 1, 9) ‘If any brother sins in the Church and does not obey the law, let him not be reckoned amongst you till he do penance, and let him not be received into fellowship lest your prayer be defiled and hindered’ (Didache 14, 2; 15, 3).”

Chapter 5

“How can it come about that, having once escaped from the demon's nets, you allow yourself to be caught again? ... Do your hands, which have been purified (by baptism) of human sins and have been admitted to the sacrifice of the Lord...allow themselves to be caught again in the demon's nets? ... Do not conform to the world, to its pomps, to its delights, or to its pleasures, but preserve yourself from all the world's iniquity.”

Chapter 8

“Let no unclean person touch the sacrifice of the holy thing. ... Any one eating the flesh of the sacrifice and having uncleanness on him, will be cut off from the people.” (Leviticus 7:20)

Chapter 10

“The Lord says in the Gospel that for a sin against God there is no excuse nor forgiveness, and that none receives pardon. ‘If any one,’ says He, ‘shall speak blasphemy against the Son of Man it shall be forgiven him; but to him who shall have sinned against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven neither here nor in the world to come’ (Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:28); and again the prophet says: ‘If by trespass one man sinneth against another prayer shall be made for him to God; but if a man shall sin against the Lord, who shall pray for him?’ (1 Samuel 2:25). And the blessed Apostle Paul, the Steward and Vicar of Christ, in the exercise of his care over the Church says: ‘Ye are the temple of God, and Christ dwelleth in you; if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy’ (1 Corinthians 3:16). And again, the Lord in His Gospel denies sinners and reproaches them, saying: ‘Depart from me all who work iniquity; I never knew you.’ (Matthew 7:23). And the Apostle John says: ‘Every one that sinneth is not of God, but of the Devil; and ye know that the Son of God shall come to destroy the sons of the devil’ (1 John 3:8).”

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