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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters (St. Basil of Caesarea) > Letter 286

Letter 286

ST. BASIL OF CAESAREA

To the Commentariensis.

Whereas certain vagabonds have been arrested in the church for stealing, in defiance of God's commandment, some poor men's clothing, of little value otherwise, yet such as they had rather have on than off their backs; and whereas you consider that in virtue of your office you yourself should have the custody of the offenders:— I hereby declare, that I would have you know that for offenses committed in the church it is our business to mete out punishment, and that the intervention of the civil authorities is in these cases superfluous. Wherefore, the stolen property, as set forth in the document in your possession and in the transcript made in the presence of eyewitnesses, I enjoin you to retain, reserving part for future claims, and distributing the rest among the present applicants.

As for the offenders—that they be corrected in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. By this means I hope to work their successive reformations. For where the stripes of human tribunals have failed, I have often known the fearful judgments of God to be effectual. If it is, however, your wish to refer this matter also to the count, such is my confidence in his justice and uprightness that I leave you to follow your own counsels.

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Source. Translated by Blomfield Jackson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 8. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3202286.htm>.

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