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V Lateran Council

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  • INTRODUCTION
    • SESSION 10 - 4 May 1515
      • [Bull against exempt persons, in which are included some points regarding ecclesiastical liberty and episcopal dignity]
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[Bull against exempt persons, in which are included some points regarding ecclesiastical liberty and episcopal dignity]

Leo, bishop, servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the sacred council, for an everlasting record. Presiding over the government of the universal church (the Lord so disposing), we readily aim to secure the advantages of subjects, in conformity with the obligation of our pastoral office. In order to preserve the church's freedom, to remove scandals, to establish harmony, and to foster peace between prelates of churches and those subject to them, we apply the effort of apostolic care in proportion as experience shows that disagreement between such groups will be harmful. Thus we are glad to regulate the indults and privileges granted to the same subjects by both our predecessors and the apostolic see, at the expense of the prelates concerned, in such a way scandals do not arise from them, or material be provided to anyone for fostering ill-will, or ecclesiastical persons be somehow drawn away from the benefit of obedience as well as from perseverance in the divine service .

Recently, indeed, a trustworthy report has reached our ears that canons of patriarchal, metropolitan, cathedral and collegiate churches and other secular clerics are making too many claims, on account of which they give rise to considerable ill-report concerning themselves, have an injurious effect on others from their claims of exemption and freedom obtained from the apostolic see, evade the corrections and regulations of the ordinaries, and shun their courts and judgments. Some of them, in the hope of gaining freedom from punishment for their deviations by the privilege of exemption, do not fear to commit offences which they would certainly have never committed if they did not believe that they were protected by their exemption. The result is that, on account of the brashness of those trusting that they will obtain freedom from punishment for their offences, because of the privilege of exemption, they commit outrages on many occasions as a result of which the church is very much maligned and serious scandals arise, especially when those responsible for correcting and punishing them fail to do so. In our wish to provide the necessary remedy lest, on the above pretext, their faults remain unpunished, we rule, with the approval of the sacred council, that henceforth those to whom the correction and punishment of exempt persons has been committed by the apostolic see, are to attend carefully to these duties and diligently to carry out the obligations of the office entrusted to them. As soon as it is legally clear to them that exempt persons have been at fault, they are to punish them in such a way that they are restrained from their acts of arrogance by fear of a penalty and so that others, frightened by their example, will rightly shrink from committing similar faults .

If they are neglectful in this matter, the diocesan and other local ordinaries are to warn such persons, who have the responsibility for correcting those who are exempt, that they should punish such exempt persons who have committed faults and are guilty and should censure them within a suitable time, which is to be determined by the judgment of those giving the warning. The warning is to be given in person (if the resources and standing of the person giving it make this possible), or otherwise, if there should be no clearly recognised judge in the region of the exempt persons, they are to warn those whom they consider to be responsible for the above by means of a public edict, which is to be fixed to the doors of the cathedrals or other churches where such judges of exempt persons may happen to reside, or if there are no judges of the exempt persons there, then where the exempt persons have committed the faults. If those who have received the warning are negligent in this matter, and do not trouble or have refused to carry it out, then, so that they may be penalised for their fault, they are to be deprived of hearing the inquiry for that time and are henceforth not to be involved in any way in such inquiries. Then the diocesan and other local ordinaries can proceed, on our authority, either to an inquiry or by means of an accusation, excluding the use of torture, against such offending and criminous persons and may personally examine the witnesses. They shall see that the process itself -- regarding which, by reason of the solemnity of the law, we forbid anything to be alleged or said except on account of an omitted citation (provided the offence has been correctly proved elsewhere) -- is held, closed and sealed by them and quickly despatched to the apostolic see, either by themselves or by another messenger, so as to be carefully examined by the apostolic see, either by the Roman pontiff or by someone else to whom he shall commit the matter; at the expense of the offending exempt persons, including the expenses incurred in the process itself, which expenses the ordinaries can compel the persons who have been investigated and charged to pay. And those found worthy of blame, either to the extent of being condemned or on account of there being sufficient evidence to justify recourse to torture so that the truth might be extracted, are to be returned to the diocesans or ordinaries so that these may lawfully proceed further, on our authority, in the inquiry or the accusation and may terminate the case according to what is just .

Notaries of the apostolic see, whose office is known to have been instituted by pope Clement I of happy memory at the beginnings of the primitive church, for the purpose of investigating and recording the acts of saints, and who have been elevated to the office of protonotary and wear an official garment and a rochet, together with other officials who are attached to us and to the said see, when they are actually engaged in their duties, are exempt from all jurisdiction of ordinaries in both civil and criminal matters. Other notaries, however, not wearing the dress of the protonotariate, unless they have adopted it within three months after the publication of this present document, both themselves and others due to be elevated to the office in the future who do not regularly wear the official dress and a rochet, as well as other officials, our own and those of the said see, when not actually engaged in their duties, are to be subject to the jurisdiction of the said diocesans and ordinaries in both criminal and civil cases which involve sums not exceeding twenty-five golden ducats of the treasury. But in civil cases involving sums exceeding such an amount, they are to enjoy full exemption and to be totally excluded from the jurisdiction of the said diocesans and ordinaries. We also judge it worthy and appropriate that among the personal staff of cardinals of the holy Roman church, only those shall enjoy the privilege of exemption who belong to the household staff and are regular sharers of its board, or have been sent by the same cardinals to carry out their personal business, or perhaps are absent for a time from the Roman curia to refresh themselves. But for others, even when they are registered as belonging to the personal staff, the privilege of staff membership in no way entitles them to be outside the control of their diocesans and ordinaries .

By the constitution published at the council of Vienne which begins Attendentes, there was given to the aforesaid diocesans full faculties to visit once a year the convents of nuns, in their dioceses, that are immediately subject to the apostolic see. We renew this constitution and we prescribe and command that it be strictly kept, notwithstanding any exemptions and privileges. By the foregoing, moreover, the same diocesans and ordinaries are not to be prejudiced by cases in which jurisdiction over exempt persons has been granted by law. Rather, we define that henceforth exemptions granted for a time without reasonable cause, and without any citation of those involved, are of no force or value .

Since order in the church is confused if the jurisdiction of each person is not preserved, we rule and ordain, in an effort to support the jurisdiction of ordinaries (so far as we can with God's favour), to impose more quickly an end to lawsuits, and to restrict the immoderate expenses of litigants, that individual cases, spiritual, civil and mixed, involving in any way an ecclesiastical forum and concerned with benefices -- provided that the actual benefices have not been under a general reservation and the incomes, rents and produce of the individual benefices do not surpass in value, by common reckoning, twenty-four golden ducats of the treasury -- shall in the first instance be examined and settled outside the Roman curia and before the local ordinaries. Thus, nobody may appeal prior to a definitive sentence, nor may an appeal (if made) be in any way admitted, except from an interlocutory judgment which may have the force of a definitive sentence, or by way of a complaint which in no way concerns the main business. For, redress cannot be obtained from a definitive sentence by means of an appeal, unless one of the litigants does not dare to go to law before the ordinary because of a genuine fear of his adversary's power, or for some other acceptable and honourable reason which must be at least partially proved otherwise than by his personal oath. In these exceptional cases, the appeal can be begun, investigated and concluded in the Roman curia, even in the first instance . In other cases, the appeals and the commissions of these and other such suits, and whatever follows from them, shall henceforth be of no force or value. The judges and conservators appointed by the apostolic see, if they are not graduates in either civil or canon law, are obliged, on being asked by the parties concerned or by one of them, to take an assessor who is not under suspicion with the parties and to judge the case according to his report .

We have learnt, by many and frequent reports, that very many churches and the bishops presiding over them, on both sides of the Alps, are being troubled and disturbed in their jurisdictions, rights and lordships by esquires, princes and nobles. These, under colour of a right of patronage which they pretend to hold in ecclesiastical benefices, without the support of any apostolic privileges, or of collations or letters from the ordinaries, or even of any pretence of a title, presume to confer benefices not only on clerics but also on layfolk; to punish at their own whim priests and clerics who are at fault; to remove, purloin and usurp in an arbitrary way, either directly or by ordering others, the tithes of everything on which they are obliged by law to pay, as well as tithes belonging to cathedrals, and other things which pertain to diocesan law and jurisdiction and are the exclusive concern of bishops; to forbid such tithes and any fruits to be taken out of their cities, lands and territories; to seize and unjustly hold fiefs, possessions and lands; to induce and compel, by threats, terror and other indirect means, the granting to them of fiefs and goods of churches and the conferring of ecclesiastical benefices on persons nominated by them; and not only to permit but even expressly to command very many other losses, damages and injuries to be inflicted on the aforesaid clerics and churches and their prelates .

We take thought, then, that no power has been granted to lay people over clerics and ecclesiastics, or over property belonging to the church, and that it is right and just that laws should be made against those who refuse to observe this . We also consider how much such actions detract, with disastrous results which must be condemned, not only from the honour of ourself and the apostolic see but also from the peaceful and prosperous condition of churchmen. We desire too, to restrain from thoughtless acts of rashness, not so much by new penalties as by a renewed fear of existing ones that should be applied, those whom the rewards of virtues do not induce to observe laws. We therefore renew each and all of the constitutions hitherto issued regarding the payment of tithes; against violators and seizers of churches; against fire-raisers and pillagers of fields; against those seizing and holding cardinals of the holy Roman church, our venerable brother bishops and other persons of the church, both secular and regular, and unlawfully taking over in any way their jurisdiction and rights, or disturbing or molesting them in the exercise of their jurisdiction, or presumptuously forcing them to confer ecclesiastical benefices on persons named by them, or to dispose of them in some other way at their arbitrary choice, or to grant or otherwise sell fiefs and goods of the church in perpetual tenure, against making regulations in conflict with ecclesiastical liberty; against providing help, advice and support for the above practices. Since these acts are not merely opposed to law but are also in the highest degree insulting and contrary to ecclesiastical liberty, we therefore, in order that we may be able to give an honest account to God of the office entrusted to us, earnestly urge in the Lord, by fatherly sentiments and counsels, the emperor, kings, princes, dukes, marquises, counts, barons, and others of whatever other nobility, pre-eminence, sovereignty, power, excellence or dignity they may be, and we command them by virtue of holy obedience, to observe the foregoing constitutions and to make them inviolably observed by their subjects, notwithstanding any customs whatever to the contrary, if they wish to avoid the divine displeasure and the fitting reaction of the apostolic see. We decree that appointments made in the above-mentioned way to the said benefices are null and void, and those making use of them are rendered incapable of obtaining other ecclesiastical benefices until they have been dispensed in the matter by the apostolic see .

We have also been carefully reflecting that, after Christ's ascension into heaven, the apostles assigned bishops to each city and diocese, and the holy Roman church became established throughout the world by inviting these same bishops to a role of responsibility, and by gradually sharing the burdens by means of patriarchs, primates, archbishops and bishops; and that it has also been laid down by the sacred canons that provincial councils and episcopal synods ought to be established by such persons for the correction of morals, the settlement and limiting of controversies, and the observance of God's commandments, in order that corruptions may be corrected and those neglecting to do these things may be subjected to canonical penalties. In our desire that these canons be faithfully observed, since it is right for us to be interested in what concerns the christian state, we place a strict obligation on the said patriarchs, primates, archbishops and bishops, in order that they may be able to render to God a worthy account of the office entrusted to them, that they order the canons, councils and synods to be observed inviolably, notwithstanding any privilege whatsoever. Besides, we order that henceforth a provincial council is to be held every three years, and we decree that even exempt persons are to attend them, notwithstanding any privelege or custom to the contrary. Those who are negligent in these matters are to know that they will incur penalties contained in the same canons .

In order that respect for the papal dignity might be preserved, it was determined by the constitution issued at the council of Vienne, which begins In plerisque that no persons, especially no religious, may be provided to cathedral churches which are deprived of temporal goods, without which spiritual things cannot exist for long, and which lack both clergy and christian people. We renew this constitution, and we will and command that it must be observed inviolably unless we shall judge otherwise for some just reason to be approved in our secret consistory .

We decree that anything attempted against the foregoing, or any part thereof, is null and void, notwithstanding any constitution or privilege to the contrary . Let nobody therefore ... If anyone however.. .




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