Emperor Constantius II: Becoming a Priest to Avoid Financial Duties Means Property Forfeiture

Emperor Constantius II: Becoming a Priest to Avoid Financial Duties Means Property Forfeiture

Emperor Constantius II
Source: Mary Harrsch

Timeline of History

Religious History
Christian History
Church & State History

Emperor Constantius II decrees that imperial officials who become priests in order to avoid their financial obligations must give one third of their property to relatives or to their office staffs.

The decree states:

"If specially privileged officials evade their duty to maintain their public post or their compulsory public service by passing over to the Church, they will be dragged back in the same way as decurions.

If they are not obligated with respect to their accounts, they may transfer to the Church if their desire for the commendable life demands it and they need not surrender their property.

But if they steal into the Church by clandestine trickery, then just as with the decurions two thirds of their own property must be surrendered to their children or to their near relatives .. " [CTh 8.4.7]

Any tax benefit provided by a state can, in theory, come to be abused. The greater the benefit, the greater the incentive to find a way to abuse it.

It's not surprising that some in the Roman empire would look at the ways in which people are being given financial incentives to be Christians and/or to support Christianity, then conclude that it's worth their while to cheat the system. It's also not surprising that the Roman emperors would notice this and try to find ways to stop it.

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Emperors of Rome: Constantius II

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