Upon the death of Damasus in A. D. 384, Siricius. a Roman presbyter, was nominated his successor by the united suffrages of all classes of the community, and his conduct throughout the fourteen years during which he occupied the papal chair proved the wisdom of the choice. Of simple habits and gentle disposition, he laboured incessantly to preserve the purity and unity of the Church over which he presided, his efforts being chiefly directed against the growing heresy of the Priscillianists, who had made great progress in Gaul, against Jovinian and his followers, and against the usurpation of the see of Antioch by the perjured Flavianus. with whom, however, he was eventually reconciled, through the mediation of Chrysostom. His death happened towards the close of the year A. D. 398.
Six epistles by this prelate have been preserved, being, as Du Pin observes, the first decretals which truly belong to the pope whose name they bear.
Written A. D. 385, in reply to several questions which had been proposed to Damasus, in reference to the re-admission of Arians; to the period at which baptism ought to be administered; to the forgiveness of contrite apostates; to the lawfulness of marrying a woman already promised to another ; to the treatment of penitents who had relapsed into sin; to the necessity of celibacy in the clergy ; to the conduct to be observed by those ecclesiastics who were married before they entered the priesthood ; to the ordination of monks; and to penance among the clergy.
There is one instructive passage, in which the education and progress of those trained for the ministry is distinctly defined ; although the rules here laid down were probably never strictly observed.
A youth, we are told, intended for Holy Orders, ought to be baptized when very young, and placed among the readers ; at the age of thirty, if he has conducted himself with propriety, he may become an acolyte and sub-deacon, provided always he does not marry more than once, and does not marry a widow ; five years afterwards he may be ordained deacon, when he must bind himself to celibacy; after another period of five years has elapsed he may be admitted to the priesthood, that is, he may become a presbyter; and in ten years more may be made a bishop.
Of uncertain date, but belonging probably to A. D. 385, requesting information with regard to the state of the Churches in Illyria.
Written on the 6th of January, A. D. 386.
It has always been regarded with suspicion and almost proved to be a forgery by the researches of Quesnel (Append. ad Leonis Magni Opera Diss.
xv.), although its anthenticity has found a warm advocate in Baluze. (See his Dissertatio de Concilio Teleptensi.
The original title is lost. Written, probably, about A. D. 386, exhorting the prelates to whom it is addressed to observe closely the rules laid down by the Council of Nice regarding the choice and ordination of bishops.
written about the commencement of A. D. 389, announcing to the Church at Milan the condemnation of Jovinian by the unanimous voice of the whole Roman clergy assembled in judgment (“omnium nostrum tam Presbyterorum et Diaconorum, quam etiam totius Cleri una sententia
The reply of Ambrose is still extant.
Written at the very end of A. D. 391, or in the early part of A. D. 392, in reply to the application of the Illyrian bishops, who had requested his advice with regard to Bonosus, charged with having maintained that the Virgin Mary had borne children after the birth of our Lord.
A reference is here made to the deliberations upon this very question at the Council of Capua, held in November, A. D. 391.
This letter was ascribed at one time to Ambrose, and by some, most ignorantly, to Damasus, but has been fully proved by Justellus, in his Code of Canons (8vo. Par. 1610, 1615, 1660, Not. ad Canon. 48, Cod. Eccl. Afric.
), and by others to be the production of Siricius.
Several epistles have been lost, such as :--Ad Maximum Imperatorem,
A. D. 385, praying for the discouragement of the Priscillianists; De Ithacianorum Causa,
A. D. 386; Ad Theodosium Imperatorem,
against Flavianus; Ad Rufinum,
A. D. 398. an account of which, as well as of those falsely attributed to Siricius, will be found in Constant.
The six epistles are contained in the Epistolae Pontificum Romanorum of Constant, fol. Paris, 1721, vol. i. p. 622
; and under their best form in the Bibliotheca Patrum of Galland, vol. vii. (fol. Venet. 1770), p. 533.
Consult the notes of Coustant, and the Prolegomena
of Galland to vol. vii. cap. xiii. p. xviii. ; Dupin, Ecclesiastical History of the Fourth Century
; Schönemann, Bibliotheca Patrum Lat.
vol. i. cap. 50.23.