Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/540

This page needs to be proofread.




Council of Trent a simple benefice could lawfully be conferred on a cleric as early as his seventh year, but since that council the recipient of a simple bene- fice must be in his fourteenth year, and for double benefices the age of twenty-four years completed is always required. A greater maturity is demanded for certain offices, e. g. thirty years' completed for the episcopate, and forty years foi the post of canon penitentiary, (c) Character. — The appointee must be of legitimate birth and of good reputation, and free from censure and irregularity. (d) Relative trorthiness. — In the case of a choice between several candidates for a bishopric or for a parish, the col- lator must appoint the most worthy, i. e. the one who possesses in the highest degree the qualities necessary for a successful discharge of the duties connected with the benefice in question. Tlie same rule applies to prelacies with quasiepiscopal jurisdiction, to the canon theologian and to the canon penitentiary. As to other benefices authorities differ, the preferable opinion maintaining that in all cases the most worthy is to be chosen, (e) Science. — According to a law of Trent (Sess. VII, c. xiii, De ref.) no one can be collated to a benefice unless his fitness has been demonstrated in an examination conducted by the ordinary. In the case of parochial benefices, this examination must take the form of a concursus. (See Concursus.) For some appointments the possession of a degree in theology or in canon law is demanded, as evidence of requisite learning; a bishop must be a doctor or a licentiate in canon law or in theology, or have the public testimony of a university as to his fitness to teach others; an archdeacon also must be a doctor or a licentiate in canon law or in theology; and similar qualifications are demanded for other offices. The Holy See, is, at the present time, insisting that the law concerning degrees be faithfully observed, (f) Extraordinary requirements. — These may be im- posed by the articles of foundation or by secular law. Founders of benefices are given a great deal of liberty in attaching conditions to the act of collation, provided that these conditions be approved by ecclesiastical authority. In consequence, it happens at times that only members of a certain family or citizens of some town or city are eligible, or even, in some few instances, persons of noble birth. More onerous, and not always acceptable to the church, is the interference of civil authorities in the matter of collation. In many places only a person declared acceptable to the Government, or a citizen, or a native, or one who swears fidelity to the Government at the time of appointment, or who receives the royal exequatur, can hope to be collated. In Portugal and in Bavaria, the permission of the Government is necessary for ordination, and without this permission, which is given after an examination by secular au- thorities, a cleric is incapacitated for benefices in these two kingdoms. The Bavarian law also con- tains the curious provision that no subject is to enter the German College at Rome so long as it is con- ducted by the Fatliers of the Society of Jesus, or by any similar order, and that all who contravene this ordinance are to be considered as persona; non gratce to the Government and excluded from all benefices and posts at its disposal.

Obligations. — .\11 beneficed clerics are bound to make a profession of faith within two months from the date of taking possession, to perform faithfully the duties pertaining to their charge, to recite the canonical hours, and if the benefice held be double, to reside in the place in which their benefice is lo- cated. Violation of the law of residence is punished by loss of revenues during the time of absence, and if persisted in, by privation.

Vacancy. — The tenure of the incumbent of a benefice is perpetual, in the sense that it can be terminated only by death or for causes specified in

the law. It is provided in the law that in the event of certain acts vacancy shall occur facto; as when the incumbent marries or attempts marriage, when he takes solemn vows in a religious order, when he violates the canon forbidding plurality, when he fails to receive within the prescribed time the nec- essary ordination, when he obtains episcopal conse- cration, when he is guilty of any crime to which penalty of deprivation is expressly attached. In other cases deprivation follows a judicial process, instituted in virtue of laws authorizing the bishop to punish certain offences in this manner. Moreover a cleric has the right to resign his benefice provided the resignation be offered freely and for just reasons, and be accepted by a competent superior, and he may also, with certain conditions, exchange bene- fices with another incumbent.

Revenues, — The holder of a benefice is not the owner of the foundation from which he derives his support; he occupies in reference to it the position of a tutor or guardian who must defend its interests. His chief duty is to maintain it as a perpetual means of support for ministers of religion. Its fruits or revenues, however, belong to him, but with the ob- ligation of devoting to pious causes, and especially to the relief of the poor, all that is not needed for his own support. Formerly, this superfluous revenue could not be disposed of by will, but a universal custom has long since authorized such testamentary disposal, provided it be made in favour of pious causes or of the poor. In fact, in most places on account of the difficulty of distinguishing a cleric's patrimonial property from his beneficiary revenue, the right is recognized to dispose freely by will of all property. (See Jus Spolii.)

Du.\RENE, De Sacris Ministeriis et Beneficiis (Paris, 1564); Rebuffi, Praxis Beneficiorum (Lyons, 1580); G.vrzias, De Beneficiis (Cologne, 1614); Corradu.s, De Praii Beneficiarid (Naples, 1656); LoTTERlus, De Re Beneficiarid (Lyons. 1659); Leurenius, Forum Benefidale (Cologne, 1674); Gohard, Traite des Benefices (Paris, 1765); Sgdanin, Tractatus Bene- ficiarius (Rome, 1751); Thomassinus, Vetus et Nova Disciptina circa Ecclesice Bcneficia et Beneficiarios (Venice, 1766). the classic historical work on Benefices; Gagliardi. Tractatus de Beneficiis (Naples, 1842); Zitelli, Apparatus Juris Eccl. (Rome, 1907); Gross, Das Recht an der Pfriinde (Graz, 18S7); Galante, II Beneficio Ecclesiastico (Milan, 1895); Vering. Lehrbuch des kath. prot. und oriental. Kirchenrechts, etc. (3d ed., Freiburg, 1893), 452 sqq.; Roth, Geschichte des Beneficialwesens (Eriangen, 1850): Stutz, Geschichte des Bene- ficia/wcsens bis Alexander III (Berlin, 1895); Taunton, The Laic of the Church (London, 1906).

John T. Creagh. Benefit of Clergy, the exemption from the juris- diction of the secular courts, which in England, in the Middle Ages, was accorded to clergymen. This exemption included all wlio had been tonsured and wore the ecclesiastical dress, and was shared in by monks and nuns. In Saxon days ecclesias- tical and civil cases were decided in shire and hun- dred courts where the bishop sat side by side with the ealdorman or sheriff. From the days of the Conqueror ecclesiastical courts were held distinct from the secular courts. Gratian (cap. xlvii, 11» pars Dec, Causa XI, ix 1) sums up the privilege of the clergy thus: "From the above it is to be understood that a clergyman is not to be brought before the public courts either in a civil or criminal case, tinless perhaps the bishop should not wish to decide the civil case, or unless he should, in a criminal case, degrade him". William forbade his judges and ministers and every layman to meddle with the laws regarding the bishop. These privi- leges of the clergy were substantially respected by the Norman kings, though their tendency to arbi- trariness caused them in special cases to seek to override them. They were at the root of the con- troversy between Henrj- II and St. Thomas Becket. Henry alleged that the old customs of the kingdom required that a criminous clerk should be accused in a lay court, whence he was to be transferred to