The context of this canon concerns women who have made a vow of chastity. The theme has drifted to a widow who has had the outspoken intention of not marrying again. To the reasonable objection: ‘Why can’t she marry again since she has not been ordained?’, the answer is given that nothing is written in canonical records about ordained widows. Having expressed the intention of not marrying again should suffice to establish her as a woman dedicated to chastity. Moreover, someone remembers that the Synod of Epaon had abolished the ordination of ‘widows’ . . . The author was obviously not familiar with women deacons.
He gives Avitus the unusual title ‘Papa’ which is normally reserved to the Pope. We know, however, that Avitus was the venerated Archbishop of neighbouring Vienne who attended the Synod of Epaon. Avitus succeeded his father Hesychius, the previous bishop of Vienne — episcopal honour in this noble family being ‘informally hereditary’.
|Source: MANSI IX, 799-800|
|Canon 20. . . . Illud vero quod aliqui dicunt: vidua quae benedicta non fuit, quare non debet maritum accipere? cum omnes sciant quod nunquam in canonicis libris legitur benedictio vidualis: quia solum propositum illi sufficiere debet. Sicut in Epaonensibus canonibus a papa Avito vel omnibus episcopis conscriptum est: Viduarum consecrationem, quas diaconas vocitant, ab omni regione nostra penitus abrogamus.
Et expressius decretum est in synodo Arelatensi: Professas viduas si in incontinentia perstiterint, cum raptoribus esse damnandas
|Canon 20. “ . . . With regard to what some people say: ‘Why may a widow who has not been ordained (lit. blessed), not accept a husband?’ — while everybody knows that never in our canonical books we find written about an ordinatio (lit. blessing) of widows: because a simple intention should suffice for them.
As has been written in the canons of Epaon by Archbishop (lit. Pope) Avitus and all bishops: We abrogate the consecration of widows whom they call ‘women deacons’ completely from our region.
And as has been decreed even more clearly in the Synod of Arles: Widows who have made a vow, if they persevere living in a sexual relationship, have to be condemned together with those who rape them.
Canon 3. [After prohibiting the access of the laity in general to the altar] “For prayer and for the reception of the eucharist the holy of holies is accessible to the laity and women, as is the custom.”
(MANSI IX, p. 793)