ON ABUSES IN TAXES AND BENEFICES
Decet Quam Maxime
Encyclical of Pope Clement XIV promulgated on September 21, 1769.
To the Bishops of Sardinia.
Venerable Brethren, Greetings and Apostolic Blessing.
It is altogether befitting for the ministers of the Church and the dispensers of divine mysteries to be exempt from any suspicion, however light, of avarice; then they can be free to exercise their sacred ministry in such a way that they can justly glory that their hands have acted free of any reward. In fact Christ ordered this when He sent His disciples to preach the gospel with the words, “Freely give what you have freely received” (Mt 18.8). Paul also stated (1 Tm 3.8; Ti 1.7) that this should be required of those chosen for the ministry of the altar. This, finally, Peter inculcated in those in charge of the care of souls, saying, “Be shepherds of the flock of God entrusted to you, watching over it not for sordid gain, but freely” (1 Pt 5.2). Pastors of the Church, who ought to be an example to the faithful, must diligently observe this divine command and thus show themselves irreprehensible; they must also be vigilant so as not to permit the lower ministers over whom they have charge to perpetrate anything to the contrary. They should always remember that noble sentiment of Ambrose (Commentary on Lk 4.52), “Nevertheless, it is not sufficient if you yourselves do not seek profit: the hands of your household must also be restrained. Therefore instruct your household, exhort and watch over it: and if your servant deceive you, let him be repudiated, if apprehended, as scripture instructs.”
Accordingly, both the holy councils and previous Roman Pontiffs have repeatedly advocated that every possible avenue be closed so that such evil abuses never creep into the Church of God, or if, by chance, they had already done so, they be totally eradicated from its midst. It is lamentable that these sanctions have either lacked effect in some dioceses or been insufficiently strong or valid enough to root out totally all contrary usages. And We know that this has come about because those whose duty it was to carry them out most strictly have put forward various excuses, such as ancient and inveterate custom or the need of bestowing some reward on the ministers of ecclesiastical curias or the necessity of making up for the lack of the means of support required for a proper and decent manner of living in keeping with one’s state.
Because he understood all this properly, Innocent XI, desiring to invalidate any excuses whatsoever, in 1678 ordered that everything pertinent to the matter be collected from the sacred canons, the Council of Trent, the interpretations given by the congregations of this Council, and proposals from consultations with bishops. Furthermore he ordered that an explicit determination and mention by name be made of all ecclesiastical affairs for which the reception of any payment on the part of ecclesiastical courts and episcopal curias was forbidden. The sole exception concerned what ought to go to the Chancellor alone as a proper remuneration or as a necessary payment. The same document also provided that in these matters the same procedure and uniform discipline be observed in all ecclesiastical curias; any custom to the contrary should be completely repudiated. Innocent XI approved and confirmed this on October first of the same year and ordered its promulgation and observance. Nevertheless, not even this was enough to restore the universal collapse of ecclesiastical discipline or to curb depraved customs rooted in various dioceses. One objection was that the aforesaid did not impose a law to be observed in ecclesiastical curias outside of Italy as well. Nonetheless the decrees contained in it were taken from sacred canons and principally from the Council of Trent, which all ecclesiastical curias must obey.
- Accordingly, with sorrow We have learned that many abuses in the exercise of spiritual power (which not only totally destroy ecclesiastical discipline, but also enfeeble and bring the greatest shame upon your dignity and power) still exist in your ecclesiastical curias. To be sure your piety, your holy mode of life, your solicitude for your churches is more than sufficiently known to Us. We also know that these abuses have been introduced in the past, first from some secondary ministry or other, and have been gradually spread from diocese to diocese, perhaps without the knowledge of bishops. In certain places the greater dignity of a particular church has even led to the increase of such abuses. Some ministers, whose successors in office or ministry paid little attention and incautiously followed the footsteps of their own predecessors, deemed these long standing and customary abuses worthy of being proposed for approval by synodal constitutions. Accordingly, you can in no way be blamed; rather you are worthy of commendation because, as We have learned, you are grieved by these abuses and wish to extirpate them.
We, however, perceiving how much you will be detested for this and how great the obstacles will be unless the Apostolic Authority assists you in this enterprise, accordingly make this intervention. We do this especially because of the diversity of the fees and the varying practices in different dioceses. As a result of Our intervention, We anticipate conformity among all dioceses. Wherefore We are confident that you will faithfully carry out Our decrees which were requested by Charles Emmanuel, the illustrious king of Sardinia. We are also confident that you will see to it that they are diligently observed by all to whom they pertain.
- First, as far as concerns holy orders, you can hardly be ignorant of the practically innumerable laws of the Church which forbid bishops and others ordaining or any officials to receive anything from conferring orders. This was most clearly forbidden by the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 (canon 2), by the Roman Synod held under St. Gregory the great in 600 or 604 (canon 5) and elsewhere in his Epistles (bk. 4, epistle 44, indictment 13), by the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 787 (canon 5), by that of Pavia in 1022 (canon 3), by the Fourth Lateran Council under Innocent III in 1215, as well as by the councils of Tours, Braga ant Barcelona, among others (collected by Christian Wolf in dissert. 2 proem. de simonia, chap. 9, tome 4 and by Gonzales-in chapter Antequam I de simonia, no. 9), and, most recently, by the Council of Trent (session 21, chap. 1 on reform) which emended the ancient canons allowing a spontaneous offering to be accepted and restored ecclesiastical discipline concerning ordination to its pristine and ancient purity.
The decree of the Council is as follows: “Since all suspicion of avarice must be absent from ecclesiastical ordinations, the bishops or other conferrers of orders or their ministers may not accept anything for the conferring of any order whatsoever, even ecclesiastical tonsure, or for dimissorial letters and testimonials, or for the seal or anything else, even if spontaneously offered, under any pretext whatever. Where the commendable custom of not accepting anything is not prevalent, notaries may receive one tenth of an aureus for dimissorial or testimonial letters, but only when no salary is provided for their office. The bishop, however, may not receive, directly or indirectly, any remuneration from that given to the notary for these letters. Ordaining bishops and their ministers are to offer their services freely. All contrary decrees and customs, which are rightly called abuses and simoniacal corruptions, are rendered null and void. Those acting to the contrary, both those giving and those receiving shall ipso facto incur, in addition to divine retribution, the punishments inflicted by law.”
- Therefore We instruct and order you not to accept anything, even when offered spontaneously, for the bestowing of any orders whatsoever, even for clerical tonsure, for dimissorial or testimonial letters, for the seal, or for any other reason. The single exception is the offering of a wax candle, which is the custom of the Roman pontifical. The quality of the candle and its weight must be left completely up to the judgment and free will of those who are being ordained. Likewise your vicar generals will observe the same sanction as well as vicars forane, chancellors, other ministers, associates, and members of your retinue whom the Council of Trent forbids to receive or demand under any title any emolument, reward, or gift on the occasion of sacred ordinations.
- However, in those dioceses where no stipend or salary is provided for the chancellor or notary of the ecclesiastical curia for the carrying out of their office, We grant them permission, in the case of an order already conferred, to be able to exact for each dimissorial letter the tenth part only of a single aureus or ten obols of Roman coinage. They may receive the same in cases of clerical tonsure, its dimissorial letters, and ordinations to be received from a bishop who comes from outside the diocese. They may not receive remuneration from an order priest bound by vows of strict poverty and not having the use of money. When the above-mentioned testimonial or dimissorial letters refer to several orders already conferred or to be conferred by an outside bishop, the same scale of remuneration must be observed: it is by no means permitted to increase or multiply the stipend of ten obols in proportion to the number of individual orders contained in the same letters. By this, however, it is not Our mind to oblige the chancellor or notary to be required to describe simultaneously different orders conferred at different times and at different ordinations in the same testimonial letters; this We order to take place only when it is a question of those orders, viz. minor orders, which were conferred atone and the same ordination. As for dimissorial letters which are given for several orders to be received from an outside bishop, We forbid that their texts be multiplied or anything else be demanded for requesting the conferral of the orders or for access to the place of ordination or under any other title of gift or reward.
- Moreover, regarding the order of the subdiaconate, there may be greater labor on the part of the chancellor or the notaries to establish the veracity and propriety of the titles of patrimony or benefice under which each one wishes to be promoted. For this labor as well as for the other acts which must precede the conferring of the said order, We grant them the right to receive some remuneration congruent with their labor. This is to be estimated by the bishop according to his judgment and conscience, which is to be weighty, provided that the stipend for the inscription, seal and all other things does not exceed one aureus or sixteen and a half julios. Those who are to be promoted to orders, or their parents, to be free to use any notary legitimately approved for the composing of such decrees without being compelled to appear before the aforesaid curias together with the necessary witnesses for the establishment and stipulation of the patrimony and for the other required acts. The notary of the curiato whom the decree is given, may accept remuneration from the bishop as described above or the sum of one aureus or sixteen and one-half julios, either for registering it or for any other labor. However, he under no pretext can ask for or receive anything for the publication of the decree or for letters of publication. This is explicitly stated in the decree of the Council of Trent cited above; it is clearly affirmed by the Sacred Congregation of the Council in the case of the diocese of Vicenza, 7 February 1602 and by the sacred Synod of bishops in the case of the diocese of Gerona, 25 October 1588 (to be found in Fagnani in his chapter on ordination and simony, number 32ff.).
- There are always two conditions to be observed when notaries and the chancellor receive remuneration: first, they must not be receiving a stipend or salary for exercising their office; secondly, no part of the remuneration may go to the bishop, to any other conferrer of orders, or to any official or minister, as has been declared by the same Council of Trent.
- In some curias there is the custom whereby the bishop or the vicar general demands money before permission is granted for recently ordained priests to celebrate their first Mass. Money is also requested from priests, coming from another diocese with commendatory letters from their respective bishops, before they are allowed to carry out divine services. We can hardly conceive of such base practices as being free from the suspicion of shameful profit and avarice. This custom, although introduced and preserved under the title of a stipend or remuneration given to the one who examines the priests regarding their knowledge of sacred rites and ceremonies, must, nevertheless, be totally eliminated. It is alien to the sacred canons and has been frequently repudiated.
- What We have said up to this point concerning holy ordinations can be equally applied to the conferral or provision of ecclesiastical benefices. This is evident if you read the canons of the Church which have been drawn up to eradicate completely abuses springing up in this matter at various times (cf. chapter si quis q. 3, chapter non satis 8, chapter cum in ecclesia 9, chapter Jacobus 44 de simonia and elsewhere in Christian Wolf in his cited dissertation de simonia chapter 10). And although nothing was specifically decreed by the Council of Trent, nevertheless the Sacred Congregation of the Council, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff Gregory XIII, declared that the decree (chapter 1, session 21 de ref.) had force also in the conferring of benefices, especially those having the care of souls. It also declared that nothing could be accepted for the seal, notwithstanding any time honored custom to the contrary (Garz. de benef. part. 8 chapter 1, numbers 76ff., Fagnan. chapter In ordinando de simonia, number 31, Gallemart. in chapter 1, session 21 de reform.). Hence this same Sacred Congregation, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, declared in a letter to the bishop of Molfetta, that bestowers of benefices, no matter what dignity they might possess, could neither accept nor demand anything for conferring or disposing of benefices. They are not allowed to accept or demand, whether directly or indirectly or under any title including that of annate, any portion of the fruits of such benefices, even from those offering or giving spontaneously. The notaries of those granting benefices and any other officials who receive a fixed salary from other sources should exactly observe the same norms. Those giving and receiving benefices who fail to follow these norms are considered bound by the penalties against simony given in the sacred canons and as having incurred these penalties ipso facto; notaries and other officials are suspended from their offices (Garz. loc. cit.).
- We have called these matters to your attention, venerable brothers, so that you might know how greatly abhorrent to ecclesiastical discipline are the customs which exist here and there in your dioceses concerning the conferral of benefices and with what care you must strive to remove them totally. When you confer ecclesiastical benefices-those involving the care of souls, those which are residential, those which have no obligations, and those which are called revocable chaplaincies, establish and observe the rule that you neither demand nor receive anything under any pretext or title, even that of a gift, reward or voluntary offering, especially when approving or selecting the most worthy candidates for parochial churches or the possession of benefices. The same canonical sanctions apply to any other bestowers, vicars general, chancellors, relatives, friends and members of your households, all of whom are forbidden to receive anything.
- From this general regulation are exempted only chancellors or notaries who, as We have indicated elsewhere in this letter, receive no stipend or salary for the exercise of their office. In this case the chancellor, if it is a question of benefices involving the care of souls, can exact ten obols for the edict or letter which publicly announces the availability of the benefice, five obols for each copy thereof, and five obols for posting them. If the announcement must be posted outside the city, he may receive a daily remuneration, determined by each diocese, for the expenses of the journey and its necessary arrangements. When a chancellor sends a letter bestowing a benefice which either involves the care of souls or entails no obligations, he may receive a suitable recompense for his labor according to the judgment of the bishop. This, however, may not exceed one aureus or ten julios of Roman coinage for the writing, the seal and other details, as has been frequently declared by the Sacred Congregation of the Council, especially on 15 January 1594 (Gallemart. loc. cit.) and in a letter to the bishop of Vicenze, 8 March 1602 (Fagnan. loc. cit. n. 32) and by the Sacred Congregation of Bishops of 25 October 1588 (Fagnan. ibid. n. 25). And, finally, for inscribing the requisite documents for taking possession of these benefices, he may receive three julios if they are within the city, four julios if in the suburbs, and what each diocese determines for his daily expenses if they are elsewhere. If the benefice is located in a place where there is a chancellor or notary of the vicar forane, the person receiving the benefice may, without any constraint, choose to summon the chancellor of the episcopal curia for the act of taking possession. A notary may as a recompense accept only two julios from persons who, having been examined as applicants for a benefice, receive testimonial letters of approval and use them as proof of their suitability.
- We are well aware that the chancellor or notary labors greatly in the selection of candidates for parish churches: he accepts testimony as to the qualities, merits, and good works of the applicants on behalf of the Church; he places in the record of the selection process the requirements to be exhibited by the applicants; he summarizes these requirements and makes several copies of the same for the bishop or the vicar general taking his place; he delivers to the individual examiners the material acquired so that they may make a judgment regarding the knowledge of the applicants, their way of life, and the other gifts necessary for them to administer a church. Moreover he draws up the moral questions proposed by the same examiners, counts their votes, proposes the act of selection, watches over the applicants for two and at times three days, and presides in person over the examination of the above-mentioned moral questions, etc. That some account should be taken of this labor We grant by way of indulgence, leaving it to the judgment and conscience of the bishop to determine a remuneration appropriate only to the labor involved.
- There are certain benefices reserved to and conferred by the Holy See. There are also benefices involving the care of souls for which testimonial letters of approval are given to the Apostolic Dataria as well as notice of the selection of the candidates held according to the form of the Council of Trent. Finally there are those benefices without the care of souls, especially residential benefices, for which testimonial letters concerning the manner of life, morals and suitability of the applicants are likewise customarily offered to the same Apostolic Dataria. In all these cases let chancellors beware not to ask for any remuneration, reward or anything else, even if spontaneously offered, for these letters except two julios for the actual writing, the paper and the seal on the letter of suitability. They may also accept two julios for testimonial letters about the manner of life and moral qualities of the applicants.
- For the execution of the apostolic letters, when these are to be sent in the form which is called gratiosa, let neither the bishops nor other officials presume to claim for themselves the office of executors. It depends on the judgment and choice of those who have been given the benefices to elect an executor or notary for the act of taking possession of the benefice. There are two instances, however, when the chancellor might receive remuneration: when the chancellor is selected as the official for a person provided with a benefice; and when the apostolic letters, sent in the forum called dignum, are directed to the ordinary, his officialis or vicar, and are to be carried out by them. In both cases, if there is no one who legitimately contests the appointment so that there is only an executor, the chancellor may receive remuneration for copying the same apostolic letters, placing them in the record, and for carrying out properly the other customary duties. This payment, not to exceed a gold scutum or sixteen and a half julios, is to be determined in proportion to the task by the judgment and conscience of the bishop. The bishop or any other prelate, his vicar, officialis, friends, and household members, however, are absolutely forbidden to receive any remuneration, gift, or other offering. However, if someone contests the appointment so that a judicial process must be inaugurated, it is left to the serious judgment and conscience of the bishop to determine a recompense that conforms to the work undertaken by the notary or chancellor. In no case is any part of this payment to be given, either directly or indirectly, to the bishop or others mentioned above. Moreover, for the act of taking possession of the benefice, let the same provisions mentioned above be observed.
- As for benefices which are given by way of patronage, if the fiscal promoter or the one receiving the benefice contests that it is not given by way of patronage but is freely conferred, everything is to be observed as determined above concerning benefices freely given when someone contests the appointment. Thus the chancellor may receive two julios for the edict against the contestor or contestors, ten obols for each copy of the edict, and one aureus or sixteen and a half julios for the letter of institution. For posting the same edict he may receive what was decreed in the case of benefices involving the care of souls. Should a dispute arise among the copatrons or their representatives concerning not the right of patronage but its applicability, then let the case be considered as profane, and the emoluments may be exacted which correspond to the customary rates of each curia.
- Likewise, We generally prohibit bishops, other prelates, their vicars and officiales from presuming to exact anything in the following cases: from removable chaplaincies; from establishing or erecting chaplaincy benefices, sodalities, and congregations; from establishing, blessing, consecrating, visiting, and approving churches or oratories in accord with apostolic or ordinary authority. The chancellor alone may receive a recompense befitting his labor as decided by the bishop, provided that it does not exceed sixteen and a half julios.
- As for matrimony or espousals, We propose that you observe what the sacred canons (chapter cum in ecclesia 9, chapter suam nobis 29, de simonia), St. Gregory the Great (epistle to Januarius the bishop of Cagliari (book 4, indict. 12, epistle 27) and others to be found in the praiseworthy work of Christian Wolf (in dissertat. chapter 7) and most recently the Council of Trent (session 22, chapter 5, de reformat. Matrimon.) have decreed. Bishops, their vicars, and officials, members of their households, and ministers should freely offer their services in these matters. They shall not presume to exact any reward or compensation, even if freely offered, for any of the following: decrees concerning marriage dispensations received from the Holy See; their labor in examining witnesses for such dispensations; the reception of other testimony; the writing of testimonial letters as to a person’s canonical or other freedom to marry; dispensing from the banns, required by the Council of Trent, to be announced during Mass on three consecutive feast days by the pastors of those to contract a marriage, granting permission to marry at home or elsewhere; allowing marriages to take place during inappropriate or forbidden times or before a priest other than the pastor. The same is true for any other act which must be performed. All this has been declared by the Sacred Congregation of the Council with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, any contrary custom however ancient notwithstanding (Garz. de benefic. part. 8, chapter 1, number 102 and ff. and Fagnan, chapter quoniam, ne praelati vices suas, number 30).
- The same is especially true where bishops are accustomed to grant pastors permission to proclaim banns of marriage in the church on three successive feast days or to be present at the celebration of the marriages when these pastors know there is no impediment. Such permission should be obtained gratis. Care should also be taken that any indiscriminate requirement that this permission be obtained before the celebration of marriage not render the contract of marriage more difficult and afford an occasion for great hardships. The Sacred Congregation of Bishops in its reply to the bishop of Gerona on 25 October 1585 took care to remedy both these evils (cf. Fagnan chapter In ordinando de simonia, n. 41). The canons and chapter of Gerona had inquired regarding a decree of the bishop wherein he forbade pastors to join spouses in marriage, even though the solemnities required by the Council of Trent had been fulfilled, unless these pastors had permission in writing, which was not to be given without the payment of one half julio. The same Congregation replied as follows: “If for some reasonable cause pastors are required, even when the solemnities of the same Council have been fulfilled, to have previous permission from the bishop before joining spouses in matrimony, this results from no law prescribed for the bishop. It is left to his conscience and authority, provided that the substance decreed by the same Council is observed regarding the solemnities. Likewise, although it is sometimes proper to require this of pastors in certain villages or cities, it should only be done for some urgent reason. For just as bishops should see to it that marriages take place with all the prescribed solemnities, so also they should take care that the contract of marriage not be rendered more difficult by adding new requirements without grave cause. If, however, permission is required, nothing whatsoever can be exacted for it even by the notary. If by chance ancient custom prescribes that something be offered gratis to the bishop as a sign of happiness, this does not seem entirely reprehensible.”
- Where the chancellor receives no set salary for exercising his office, he may receive as recompense for his labor and as a necessary stipend for his support some remuneration for the execution of apostolic letters for matrimonial dispensations. When the chancellor himself examines witnesses to establish the truth of what is contained in the petition, he may receive something proportionate to the number of witnesses and the gravity of his labor, but this should not exceed five julios. If, however, the testimony of the witnesses is examined by another, the chancellor may receive only two julios for the letter of delegation; he may receive absolutely nothing for the decree, seal or anything else. The chancellor may also receive two julios for testimonial letters regarding freedom to marry: this would recompense him for their writing, the paper and seal and everything else. He may also receive ten obols for each of the witnesses he examines regarding a person’s freedom to marry and the lack of any canonical impediment. Ten obols may be given when he acknowledges testimonial letters of freedom to marry on behalf of those residing elsewhere, unless there is need to examine another witness to remove all possible doubt. The chancellor may also receive ten obols for any necessary examination in the disposition of witnesses.
- To exact money or anything else in the dispensation of the sacraments has always seemed equally detestable. It is a practice proceeding from avarice and greed. Therefore the sacred canons have frequently denounced it as infected with simony and have taken care to repress it with proper punishments and ecclesiastical censures, as is clear from chapter 9 cum in ecclesiae corpore, chapter 42 ad apostolicam, de simonia and from several decrees of councils (cf. Christian Wolf loc. cit. chapters 7 and 8). Adhering faithfully to these principles the Sacred Congregation of the Council has at no time allowed the exacting of anything in the administration of the sacraments. For instance, when a doubt was proposed whether the pastor could receive the dish used for the administration of extreme unction, the same Congregation, in a letter to the bishop of Alba, 20 February 1723, replied: “Its reception is not to be permitted” (Thes. resolut. tome 2, page 280). Likewise, when the bishop of Vaison during the synod held in 1729 drew up an assessment to be observed in his diocese in which, among other things, the following directions concerning baptism were instituted: “The godfather or godmother shall supply at least one candle and a white cloth for the baptismal ceremony, unless they prefer to give five bronze coins for these and the recording of the act in the public baptismal record,” the question was proposed: “Should the tax prescribed in the said synod be observed?” The congregation replied in a letter to the bishop of Vaison on 6 February 1734: “Emphatically no” (Thes. resol. tome 6, page 209).
- Among other things which are more frequently and bitterly denounced by the sacred canons and councils is the custom which once prevailed here and there of demanding money for the reception of chrism and holy oil. Bishops have vainly tried to excuse this practice under various names, e.g., a cathedraticum, an Easter offering, or an episcopal custom (chapter 8 non satis, chapter 16 ea quae, chapter 36 in tantum, de simonia and elsewhere in Christian Wolf, loc. cit., chapter 7 secundum sacramentum). Accordingly, when the Patriarch of the Maronites at Antioch had been accustomed to receive a monetary offering during the distribution of the holy oils, although it was clear that the money was not given or received as payment for the oil but as an alms for the patriarch and as a support for the tasks incumbent on the patriarchal office and dignity, nevertheless to remove any suspicion of simony the aforesaid custom was rejected by the particular congregation to which the affairs of the Maronites belong, and Benedict XIV confirmed its decree (constit. apostolica 43, Bullar. tome 1).
- We think that this is more than enough, venerable brethren, for you to understand your duty in the administration of the sacraments, for carrying it out perfectly, and for totally eradicating the improper practices prevailing in some dioceses whereby money is demanded by the bishop or the prefect of the sacristy in the distribution of holy oils. This practice has been frequently reprobated by the Sacred Congregation of the Council especially in a reply to the diocese of Amalfi, 18 July 1699, confirmed on 6 February 1100, to doubt 12, “Is the archbishop required to demand that the holy oils be given gratis to the pastors of churches?” to which the Congregation replied “affirmatively.” And the Sacred Congregation of Bishops held in Acerenza, 18 March 1706, prescribed the same (Petras Comment. ad constitut. 5 Innocentii IV number 38).
- As to the offering of a candle to the bishop administering confirmation, which We have heard takes place in some of your dioceses, it is evident that the pontifical ritual books do not mention this practice. Moreover, the sacred function of ministry compels all ministers to observe moderation in the reception of offerings and in their way of proceeding so that their ministry not be censured by giving the impression of avarice or greed for money with the result that the reverence due to so great a sacrament becomes thereby cheapened. Consequently great care must be taken lest there arise a suspicion that the candle is not freely offered but demanded. In the latter case the faithful, especially the poor, would refrain from receiving the sacrament or delay its reception longer than is proper. Therefore it is most desirable that this custom be totally removed or, at least, that it be observed in such a way that it depend completely on the free will of those making the offering.
- The same laws, moreover, prescribe that bishops, their chancellors, and notaries ought to exercise their ministry gratis when, after previous examination and approbation, faculties are given to anyone for hearing sacramental confessions, for administering the sacraments, and for exercising ecclesiastical ministries. The same is true when they appoint suitable vicars whether permanent or removable, economic officials, and coadjutors. This is stated in cap. ad nostrum de simonia and is declared by the frequently cited reply to the diocese of Vicenza of 7 February and 8 March 1602 and by the reply to the diocese of Gerona, 25 October 1588, question 7, which repudiate any pretext otherwise, even that of recompense for drawing up letters permitting the exercise of these ministerial offices.
- We judge that none of you can be ignorant of how it has been frequently and severely forbidden to demand money for funeral and burial services (cf. Christian Wolf, loc. cit. chapter 12 and Van-Espen. in jus eccles. unis. chapter 4, paragraph 2, title 38). Let it suffice to indicate what St. Gregory the Great wrote in his letter to Januarius, the bishop of Cagliari (book 9, indict. 2, epistle 3 and also book 7, indict. 2, epistle 56): “A most famous woman, Nereida, has complained to Us that your fraternity has not blushed to ask of her a hundred solidis for the burial of her daughter . . . If this is true, it is a very serious matter; it is far from the office of a priest to ask a price for ground allotted for decomposition and to desire profit from another’s grief. We have forbidden this improper custom in Our church and We have never allowed this evil custom to take over . . . Wherefore, I reprove this vice of avarice; may no one presume to practice it elsewhere.” Nevertheless, these laws have never condemned the laudable and pious custom, observed from the earliest days of the Church, of making an offering for the dead at funerals; nor have the clergy ever been forbidden to receive them. Accordingly, Gregory (loc. cit.) immediately adds: “If, indeed, parents, relatives or heirs of such a one wish to spontaneously offer something for the lighting of candles, We do not forbid it being accepted. But to demand or ask for something We totally prohibit.” Likewise, Innocent III made the same decision at the Lateran Council (chapter ad Apostolicam 42 de simonia).
- To be sure, in the absence of personal tithes and with a decline in bequests of property or mixed goods to monasteries and chapters of canons, it was sometimes necessary to compel, as it were, the laity to offer pious oblations, which are now customary, so as to provide for the necessities of pastors and parish churches. Nevertheless, the sanctity of ecclesiastical discipline has always been considered, and caution has been taken lest there be aberrations with regard to these laudable customs on the part of clerics through excess or the laity by defect. Therefore, among other things, it was forbidden that funeral services and burials of citizens or foreigners be impeded or delayed for the sake of demanding emoluments introduced by pious custom. It was also forbidden that anything be demanded for permission to transfer the corpse or to bury it in one place rather than another.
- Except for the traditional offering bestowed with a view to pious offices offered for the benefit of soul and body, nothing else is to be tolerated in your dioceses. The pastor may not receive anything, whether occasionally or habitually, with respect of the circumstances and various dignity of persons or in consideration of the prestige of the place of burial, whether in the church or in a more imposing place belonging to the church. It is also abhorent to the sacred canons that the bishop demand or receive any money for burying either an adult or a child in any diocesan church, even that of religious communities, as the Sacred Congregation of the Council declared against the bishop of Vicenza and as the holy synod of bishops maintained against the bishop of Gerona (Fagnan. in the chapter In ordinando, de simonia 10, numbers 32 ff.), notwithstanding any custom, however ancient, or any pretext, title, or claim to the contrary.
- In the visitation of your dioceses do not even allow yourselves to be suspected of avarice or base gain. It should be obvious that you seek not your own good but that of Jesus Christ’s when you carefully observe what the fathers of the Council of Trent enjoin in this regard: “Let (visitors) not be troublesome by useless or burdensome expenses. Neither they nor any of their staff are to accept any money or gift under any title even from bequests for pious purposes unless this is due by law, despite any custom to the contrary, no matter how long standing. They may receive only a frugal or modest sustenance for only necessities during the time of visitation. However, those being visited may decide whether to give what they were formerly accustomed to pay, that is a certain sum of money, or to provide the aforesaid sustenance” (session 24, chapter 3, de ref.).
- The Sacred Congregation of the Council has issued various declarations and edicts on this decree. Some may be mentioned here. First, it has often been disputed whether the bishop can exact what are called “provisions” for visiting the cathedral or the clergy residing within the city or any other place where he usually resides. Some have observed that the statutes enacted by the Council of Trent applied only to the visitation of the diocese without any mention of the city. And sustenance, some argued, was to be given “for only necessities during the time of visitation,” and such necessity surely does not seem to be present when the bishop visits places in which he is bound to reside or is accustomed to live at least some part of the year. The Sacred Congregation, however, decided that any traditional canons or customs to the contrary were abolished by the aforementioned decree of the Council of Trent. The same Congregation constantly replied negatively in the case of Castro on 17 November 1685, in the case of Amalfi on 18 July 1705, in the case of Policastro on 1 June 1737 and, most recently, in the case of Torre San Gennaro on 30 January 1768. The same was the opinion of the sacred synod of bishops, as is clear from the letter sent to the Patriarch of Venice on 26 May 1592.
- The aforementioned decree of the Council of Trent, also agreeing with what is found in the chapter Si episcopus de off. Ordinarii, 6, expressly states that neither bishops nor any of their staff are to accept any money or gift under any title. They may receive only sustenance or, if those being visited prefer, money corresponding to this sustenance. And yet there were some who argued that they could receive sustenance in addition to money, or along with sustenance transportation by horse for themselves and their ministers, or something else under some title or pretext of a civic nature. These, however, have always lost their case in the Sacred Congregation of the Council which has constantly disapproved their manner of action as alien to the Council of Trent. In the case of the visitation of St. Mark the following two questions, among others, were asked: V. “Must the clergy pay anything to the ministers and other officials for the visitation of the bishop?” VI. “Must the same clergy pay for transportation by horse for a visiting bishop?” On 7 July 1708, the following prescript was sent: “Earlier decrees must be followed: as to Proposition V that issued to the bishop of Amalfi, 18 July 1699 (to Proposition III, Decret., book 49, page 252); as to Proposition VI that issued to the bishop of Abruzzo, December 1784 (Decret., book 4, page 10).” Consequently the response of the Congregation, according to the decrees it indicated, was: “To Proposition V, sustenance is owed only as determined by the Council; to Proposition VI, negative.” In another case concerning St. Mark, the Congregation on 16 January 1723 replied to various questions. Question III: “Should the accustomed sum of money, reckoned according to the practice of the place to be visited, be paid for supplying provisions, and for providing three meals to the bishop and his retinue, and for providing transportation, habitation and other necessities?” Question IV: “Are food and other necessities to be provided for the bishop and his retinue throughout the whole visitation?” Replying to Question III, the Congregation stated: “It is the option of those being visited to provide either sustenance or money, but if money is paid the three meals are excluded; and as for transportation by horse, follow the decree of 7 July 1708 in the case of St. Mark, preposition VI. Regarding Question IV, the answer is provided in 111.” Likewise, in the case of Policastro the same topic came up in question 11: “Can the bishop demand from the archpriest and clerics XV ducats in money in addition to food and transportation on horseback for himself and his retinue?” The Congregation’s response on 1 June 1737 was “No.”
- It was also disputed whether the bishop and his officials could demand for themselves some remuneration if in the course of the visitation they examine wills and legacies on behalf of pious causes and hand them over for execution. On this matter the Sacred Congregation of the Council declared in the case of the bishop of Mallorca, 7 August 1638, that the bishop and his officials may not receive a salary for decrees or decisions of execution of pious legacies in the course of the visitation, despite any longstanding customs to the contrary. A similar question arose in 1645 between the bishop of Vicenza and royal officials of the city of Manresa. This was brought to the same Congregation which responded on 18 March 1645: “The Congregation decided that bishops and their officials receive nothing in their visitation for decrees or judgments concerning the execution of wills or legacies, but that must all be done gratis, notwithstanding any ancient custom. Likewise outside the visitation by the bishop and his officials nothing can be received for such decrees and judgments, but a moderate sum may be paid to the notary for his writing and labor.” The same response was given to Question VIII in the case of La Muga on 28 March 1648. It is not out of place to add here what was decreed by the fifth provincial council of Milan: “The notary or the chancellor may not exact anything during the visitation from those being visited nor accept any gift, however small or however offered. The same holds true for proclaiming decrees and orders during the visitation, for their writing and for making copies of them, whether for individuals, churches, clerics, or others who are visited after the decree of visitation has been published. He may, however, be recompensed, according to the assessment that has or will be determined by the episcopal curia, for the labor expended in making copies of such decrees and orders when later requested by an interested third party.
- The same is to be observed when inspecting records of pious legacies and their satisfaction and when requisitioning accounts pertaining to the administration of churches, confraternities, pious monetary institutions and similar places. The bishop and all his officials are to carry out these tasks freely. This is clear from what has been said above and from the responses of the Sacred Congregation of the Council. On 27 June 1637 the Council declared in the case of the bishop of Vicenza: “Neither the bishop nor his officials can receive anything for examining accounts of the administration of pious works or for the execution of will or pious intentions but should carry out these tasks gratis, notwithstanding any custom to the contrary.” In the case of the confraternity of Lanciano, the following question was proposed: “Should the archbishop for the revision of accounts employ syndics or accountants chosen by the confraternity or can he employ someone else who seems good to him?” On 20 September 1710 the Congregation replied: “No to the first part, yes to the second, but gratis” (Thes. res. tome 6, page 164). Although the bishop certainly ought to take care that these types of records be reviewed gratis and that an account be demanded by his own notary, the financial official of his household, or someone else in his service, it can sometimes happen that for a grave or urgent reason he ought to depute for the task some outsider who is in no way connected with the matter. As often as this happens, the bishop will conscientiously assign some remuneration, proportionate to the labor alone, for the reduction, as the Sacred Congregation stated in the case of the bishop of Veroli, 30 January 1682 (decret. f., book 35, page 283), in the case of Benevento, 7 June 1683, and in the case of Pisa, 11 December 1683.
- Since the declarations of the Sacred Congregation are firmly based on the sacred canons, it is difficult to reconcile with the decrees of the Council of Trent the following rather corrupt customs of bishops and their officials: receiving during the visitation a remuneration for inspecting certain wills or for reviewing the accounts required from administrators of churches and pious places; receiving transportation on horseback or at least their provisions for the entire time of the visitation; or claiming as their own lamps or candles placed on the main and other altars of the church. Being contrary to the sacred canons, these and similar practices are to be completely eliminated.
- Although the 18 March 1645 decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Council in the case of Vicenza states that the bishop and his officials may never receive anything for decrees and judgments relative to the execution of wills and legacies, he may, nevertheless, during the visitation receive the portion due him from pious legacies and offerings and other things which come to the church on the occasion of a funeral. This is customarily called the fourth canonical part, and its acceptance was allowed by the same Congregation in responding to Question VIII in the case of the bishop of Urgel on 25 January 1676 and 14 February 1693. The bishop has this right from the sacred canons (chapter 14 officii, et requisiti 5, de testamentis). That the Council of Trent wished this right to remain in force is clear insofar as the Council severely prohibits bishops from receiving anything for the visitation even from testaments for pious uses “except that which is owed to them from pious bequests by law” (session 24, chapter 3, de ref.). In exacting this portion or canonical fourth, bishops must observe the correct limits as determined by the same holy canons (chapter finali de testamentis), which state: “The canonical portion….ought not be deducted from what is bestowed to churches or other pious places for building, decoration, candles, anniversaries on the seventh, twentieth, or thirtieth days, or for perpetuating divine worship. Practically the same is found in cap. ex parte de verb. signif. Moreover nothing is deducted from a legacy providing a marriage dowry for girls, as the Sacred Congregation of Bishops responded in the case of Nocera, on 14 September 1592. Nor is anything taken from legacies for the celebration of Masses. The Sacred Congregation of the Council on 13 January 1714 in the case of Nocera declared this to be so (quartae canonicae, decret., book 64) even though from time immemorial the same fourth was granted to bishops from all legacies.
- As for convents of nuns or houses of pious women who live apart from the world in the manner of nuns, the apostolic constitutions and the Congregations both of Bishops and of Religious have decreed, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiffs, that bishops, prelates, vicar generals, special delegates, officials, as well as relatives and members of their households may not demand or receive remuneration of any kind for the following: admitting girls to the religious life; approving their dowries; examining their motive for entering an institute of religious life; receiving their profession; allowing girls to receive their education within a convent; assisting at their renunciation of goods before they are admitted to profession; presiding at the election of an abbess or other superior; granting permission for doctors, surgeons and other professional men to enter the convent; granting a person permission to address nuns or others living in the cloister; delegating confessors, chaplains, financial officials, administrators of temporal goods, and other ministers; and, in general, for any act necessary for nuns to pursue their way of life.
- An exception to this general rule is made for the sustenance required by the bishop or prelate on the occasion of some of these actions. And yet this may be provided only by way of recompense or donation, and it is not to exceed an amount sufficient for three days. The chancellor, however, may be recompensed for his labor in drawing up the documents of renunciation and in depositing the dowry, but this should never exceed ten julios.
- In addition to the above, there are many more acts that should be utterly free from any remuneration. These pertain either to the exercise of spiritual power or to those episcopal functions for which the bishop, although permitted to receive his sustenance, may neither directly nor indirectly accept any remuneration under any pretext or title, even that of a gift or a spontaneous offering. The same applies to their vicars, officials, and household members. We shall specifically enumerate at least the most important of these. Drawn from the sacred canons, apostolic constitutions, and decrees of the sacred congregations, they are frequently mentioned by eminent authorities and are rather commonly known.
- For granting letters patent, as they are called, or permission to preach in Lent and Advent and any other time and in any place (Council of Trent, session 5, chapter 2, de reform.).
For granting permission to perform servile works on feast days for a grave cause (Urban VIII in his constitution, Universa) several decrees of the sacred congregations of the council and the bishops (Ferrar. verba festa, numbers 31 ff.), although the money which is received from using this permission is to be converted to pious uses.
For reviewing administrative accounts of churches and pious places, and for the revision of these accounts whether done by the bishop, some general delegate or a delegate specifically chosen by the bishop, with the exception, however, indicated above.
For recognizing, approving, and promulgating relics, indulgences, and privileged altars.
For granting permission to seek alms or anything else, even if granted to those from outside the diocese.
For appointing church custodians and sacristans.
For granting testimonial letters of poverty or another state of life. The chancellor, however, may receive ten obols.
For granting testimonial letters which state that someone has not entered any order or received clerical tonsure. The chancellor may be offered ten obols only.
For the act of renunciation of the clerical state and its admission as well as for letters of attestation as to its renunciation. For these documents the chancellor can require ten obols.
For searching the episcopal archives to find parochial books listing baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and deaths. For each book the chancellor can require only twenty obols. The same may be asked for a letter attesting a particular record. It is, however, allowable to accept a larger remuneration depending on the dignity of the person requesting or whether the testimonial letters are to be used outside the diocese or kingdom.
It might happen, however, that the parochial records are unclear regarding the matter for which testimony is sought, and consequently it is necessary to obtain proof from witnesses. In this case the chancellor may not only receive the prescribed assessment for examining witnesses and for recording their testimony, but also another fifteen obols for writing the testimonial letters. The vicar general may receive thirty obols for the decrees ordering information to be sought and for ordering the letters testifying as to the information he received and evaluated.
For granting permission to relinquish churches or benefices (Council of Trent, session 23, chapter 1, de ref.). Likewise for commendatory letters required by priests, clerics or others moving to other dioceses.
For writing letters of warning of excommunication in cases where hidden matters have been made public, whether these letters are issued by the episcopal curia or by the ordinary of the place, or whether they come from the Holy See. The chancellor may receive ten obols for his labor in writing them. Likewise he alone will be given another sum, reckoned according to the conscience of the bishop, for making copies of these letters and for procuring the previous decree of the vicar.
For writing warnings, sentences, or declarations of censures received for striking a cleric or any other cause; also for the sentence of absolution and for the absolution itself from censures (chapter ad aures de simonia). The chancellor may exact twenty obols as recompense for their writing, provided that it is not a question of carrying out letters of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary; in this case the chancellor may not be recompensed. Twenty obols can also be paid to the chancellor for the list of censures commonly called a schedule and for the list of those censures which are customarily imposed. The same is observed when absolving from an oath but in the following manner: if the absolution is granted in the ecclesiastic curia, the chancellor may be paid twenty obols only for its attestation; when done outside the curia, he may receive the same fee only for the letters of delegation.
For granting permission to exercise pontifical rights.
For executing apostolic letters that impart blessings or absolutions, and for writing letters by which pastors or others are granted the faculty contained in the same apostolic letters, the chancellor may receive only thirty obols for both.
For executing apostolic letters or faculties granted by a congregation pertaining to the purchase, sale, or exchange of churches and pious places, or pertaining to a census, the chancellor may be remunerated according to his labor, but this is not to exceed ten julios. If the Holy See has requested the bishop to inquire into the truth of what is contained in the libellus of supplication, then the chancellor may receive ten obols for each witness examined. He may also receive something for drawing up edicts, for examining witnesses as to the usefulness of any sale, and for anything else in this matter. The sum, granted in accord with his labor, is to be determined by the conscientious judgment of the bishop.
For writing the decree of sale which by force of chapter 12, terrulas, question 2, only takes place with the authority of the ordinary.
- Fines or monetary punishments, when imposed in proportion to the crime or the nature of the wrongdoer, must be expended only for pious purposes and the exactment of justice so that nothing can in any way accrue for the private gain of the bishop, his vicar, or any other official. So that all doubt or suspicion of improper use be removed, it may be well or even necessary that the sentences themselves designate the pious uses or the churches benefitting from aforementioned pecuniary punishments, although those most in need and the domicile of the offenders should always be kept in mind.
- We must now add other things pertaining to the forum of settling disputes, so that ecclesiastical discipline in these matters too be restored to its pristine splendor and dignity. Deliberations must be characterized by a more mature judgment, and We are to be fully informed of the customs existing in dioceses. There is one thing, meanwhile, which We must impress upon you, namely, that ecclesiastics who pass sentence in spiritual matters should fulfill their task with such sanctity and piety that nothing obscures the candor of ecclesiastical purity. Therefore your ecclesiastical judges shall not demand or accept any remuneration, even for delivering sentences in spiritual cases and in those especially which have to do with religion, such as those against people suspected of heresy and found guilty of superstition, or which concern espousal, matrimony, censures and other such matters. In the words of Innocent III to the prelates and clerics of Lombardy (chapter cum ab omni de vita et honestate clericorum), “Realizing that there are revenues deputed for you and for other clerics so that you might live properly, you should not reach out to base gain or look for evil rewards. Your light should shine as an example to the laity and, unlike seculars, you should not seize the occasion of the law for evil commerce. Just as you abstain from these exactions in other respects and are eager to grant the force of the law to litigants, even when they are deceitful, so the same is demanded from those passing judgments, since not even judges are allowed to sell a just judgment and even secular laws reject sentences that can be bought.”
- In keeping with Our apostolic office and its obligations, We propose these things to you. If you rightly carry them out, they will aid the splendor of ecclesiastical discipline, the tranquility of your consciences, and the best guidance of your flocks. We do not think that they will be burdensome and harmful to you, although they will somewhat reduce your customary emoluments. Even the least suspicion about you is absent in view of your exemplary piety, proven religious sentiments, and your zeal for preserving ecclesiastical discipline whereby what till now was gain for you will in the future be considered a loss for Christ. You will place your true gain in this alone, that the worship of God be ever increased, that the people committed to you be more easily and felicitously fed by your word and example.
Moreover, those versed in the ecclesiastical affairs of your island and especially those representing the king have informed Us that your accustomed revenues, except for those few which you are now forbidden to demand or receive, can provide for your episcopal dignity and will suffice for the necessities of your churches. So that you do not think that you have any support for these customs, even most ancient, upon which you have relied till now, you must be mindful of what Alexander 111 (chapter cum in ecclesis, de simonia) wrote as He upbraided those who unduly clung to their customs, “Many think that they may have permission since they believe that the law concerning the dead has force by reason of its age. Blinded by cupidity, they are not sufficiently aware that crimes are the more heinous the longer they shackle the spirit.” We declare and teach that these customs, even though most ancient or supported by synodal constitutions and any other authority, even apostolic, are to be considered as abuses and corruptions. That you will in no way be wanting in zeal, diligence and industry on behalf of Our concern for your churches, is Our certain and most firm hope. Meanwhile, as a pledge of Our paternal love and benevolence for you, We grant you the apostolic blessing.
Given in Rome, at St. Mary Major, 21 September 1769, in the first year of Our Pontificate.
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