Penitential Canons
Penitential Canons
Rules laid down by councils or bishops concerning the penances to be done for various sins.

Catholic Encyclopedia. . 2006.

Penitential Canons
    Penitential Canons
     Catholic_Encyclopedia Penitential Canons
    Rules laid down by councils or bishops concerning the penances to be done for various sins. These canons, collected, adapted to later practice, and completed by suitable directions formed the nucleus of the Penitential Books (see MORAL THEOLOGY; PENANCE). They all belong to the ancient penitential discipline and have now only an historic interest; if the writers of the classical period continue to cite them, it is only as examples, and to excite sinners to repentance by reminding them of earlier severity. In a certain sense they still survive, for the granting of indulgences is still based on the periods of penance, years, day, and quarantines. The penitential canons may be divided into three classes corresponding to the penitential discipline of the East, of Rome, or of the Anglo-Saxon Churches.
    (1) Penitential canons of the East
    In the East, the prominent feature of penance was not the practice of mortification and pious works, though this was supposed; the penance imposed on sinners was a longer or shorter period of exclusion from communion and the Mass, to which they were gradually admitted to the different penitential "stations" or classes, three in number; for the "weepers" (proschlaiontes, flentes), mentioned occasionally, were not yet admitted to penance; they were great sinners who had to await their admission outside of the church. Once admitted, the penitents became "hearers" (achrooeenoi, audientes), and assisted at the Divine service until after the lessons and the homily; then, the "prostrated" (hypopiptontes, prostrati), because the bishop before excluding them, prayed over them while imposing his hands on them as they lay prostrate; finally the systantes, consistentes, who assisted at the whole service, but did not receive communion. The penanced ended with the rest of the faithful. These different periods amounted in all to three, five, ten, twelve, or fifteen years, according to the gravity of the sins. This discipline, which was rapidly mitigated, ceased to be observed by the close of the fourth century. The relative penitential canons are contained in the canonical letter of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (about 263; P. G., X, 1019), the Councils of Ancyra (314), Neocaesarea (314-20), Nicaea (325), and the three canonical letters of St. Basil to Amphilochus (Ep. 188, 199, 217 in P. G., XXXII, 663, 719, 794). They passed into the Greek Collections and the Penitential Books. Those laid down by the councils passed to the West in different translations, but were misunderstood or not enforced.
    (2) Penitential canons of Rome
    The Roman penitential discipline did not recognize the various "stations", or classes; with this exception it was like the disciple of the East. The penitential exercises were not settled in detail and the punishment properly so called consisted in exclusion from communion for a longer or shorter period. But the practice of admitting to penance only once, which kept the penitents in a fixed order, was maintained longer. The most ancient Western canons relate to the admission or exclusion from public penance; for instance, the decision of Callixtus (Tertullian, "De pudic.", i) to admit adulterers, that of St. Cyril and the Council of Carthage in 251 (Ep. 56) to admit the lapsi or apostates, although the Council of Elvira (about 300, Can. 1, 6, 8, etc.) still refused to admit very great sinners. Other canons of this council ordained penances of several years' duration. After Elvira and Arles (314) the penitential canons were rather infrequent. They are more numerous in the councils and decretals of the popes after the close of the fourth century—Siricius, Innocent, and later St. Leo. They reduce the duration of the penance very much, and are more merciful towards the lapsi or apostates. These texts, with the translations of the Eastern councils, passed into the Western canonical collections.
    (3) Penitential canons of the Anglo-Saxon and Irish Churches
    On the other hand, what is more striking in the penitential canons of Anglo-Saxon and Irish origin, is the particular fixation of the penitential acts imposed on the sinner to insure reparation, and their duration in days, quarantines (carina), and years; these consiste in more or less rigorous fasts, prostrations, deprivation of things otherwise allowable; also alms, prayers, pilgrimages, etc. These canons, unknown to us in their original sources, are contained in the numerous so-called Penitential Books (Libri Poenitentiales) or collections made in, and in vogue from the seventh century. These canons and the penitential discipline they represent are introduced to the Continent by Anglo-Saxon missionaries, and were at first received unfavourably (Council of Chalons, 814; Paris, 829); finally, however, they were adopted and gradually mitigated. (See CANONS, COLLECTION OF ANCIENT.)
    A. BOUDINHON
    Transcribed by Donald J. Boon

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. — New York: Robert Appleton Company. . 1910.


Catholic encyclopedia.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Penitential canons — are religious rules laid down by councils or bishops concerning the penances to be done for various sins. These canons, collected, adapted to later practice, and completed by suitable directions formed the nucleus of the Penitential Book s (see… …   Wikipedia

  • Penitential Redemptions —     Penitential Redemptions     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Penitential Redemptions     Penitential redemptions are the substitution of exercises (especially alms deeds), either easier or extending over a shorter period, for works of penance… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Penitential — A penitential is a book or set of church rules concerning the Christian sacrament of penance, a new manner of reconciliation with God [Rouche 1987, p. 528.] that was first developed by Celtic monks in Ireland in the sixth century AD. When priests …   Wikipedia

  • penitential book — ▪ religious manual       any of the manuals used in Europe by priests of the Western church, especially during the early Middle Ages, in administering ecclesiastical penance. (The name penance is applied to both a sacramental rite and acts… …   Universalium

  • Penitential Orders — • A general name for religious congregations whose members are bound to perform extraordinary works of penance, or to provide others with the means of atoning for grave faults. Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Penitential Orders      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Canons, Penitential — • Rules laid down by councils or bishops concerning the penances to be done for various sins. Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • pénitential — pénitential, iale, iaux [ penitɑ̃sjal, jo ] adj. • 1535; pénitencial « pénitentiel » 1374; lat. ecclés. pænitentialis ♦ Relig. Psaumes pénitentiaux : les sept psaumes de la pénitence. pénitential, ale, aux [penitɑ̃sjal, o] adj. ÉTYM. 1374,… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • penitential — penitentially, adv. /pen i ten sheuhl/, adj. 1. of, pertaining to, proceeding from, or expressive of penitence or repentance. n. 2. a penitent. 3. a book or code of canons relating to penance, its imposition, etc. [1500 10; < ML penitentialis, LL …   Universalium

  • penitential — /pɛnəˈtɛnʃəl/ (say penuh tenshuhl) adjective 1. of or relating to, proceeding from, or expressive of penitence or repentance. –noun 2. a penitent. 3. a book or code of canons relating to penance, its imposition, etc. {Medieval Latin… …   Australian English dictionary

  • Collections of ancient canons — contain collected bodies of canon law that originated in various documents, such as papal and synodal decisions, and that can be designated by the generic term of canons. Contents 1 Generalities 2 From the earliest to the apocryphal collections 2 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”