1902 Encyclopedia > Roman Catholic Church

Roman Catholic Church

ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, the name generally given to that very numerous body of Christians who acknowledge the pope, or bishop of Rome, as head of their church. This name also signifies that the Roman Catholic Church is "Roman in its centre and catholic in its circumference." The number of Catholics throughout the world is variously estimated, some, statisticians placing it as low as 152,000,000, others at 213,518,000, and others at 218,000,000. The author of the Katholischer Missions--Atlas (Rev. O. Werner, S. J.), largely furnished with Pro-paganda returns, distributes them as follows:—in Europe, 150,684,050; in Asia, 8,311,800; in Africa, 2,656,205 ; in both Americas, 51,422,566; in Australia and adjacent islands, 443,442 ; total, 213,518,063. But he considers that this calculation gives less than the whole number of Catholics throughout the world, and adds nearly a million more, making the total 214,370,000. Dr Hugo Franz Brachelli, superior of the Austrian Statistical Department, in Die Staaten Europa’s for 1884, gives the number of Catholics in Europe as 155,900,000, distributed mainly as follows:—

Prussia and German States…………………..16,229,493
Great Britain and Ireland……………………. 6,000,000
Russia………………………………………... 8,500,000
Scandinavia: Sweden (1870), Norway (1875),
Denmark (1880) ............................................ 4,075
Netherlands ................................................... 1,439,137
Luxemburg .................................................... 207,782
Belgium (pop. 5,519,844) .............................. 5,501,844
Liechtenstein, Monaco, &c., almost entirely.
Spain and Portugal (pop. 21,164,380) ………21,148,880
Greece and Montenegvo, over………………. 124,000
Turkey……………………………………….. 218,254
Bosnia and Herzegovina…………………….. 209,391

The supreme pontiff, who traces his succession from St Peter (See POPEDOM), is regarded by Catholics as "vicar of Christ, head of the bishops, and supreme governor of the whole Catholic Church, of whom the whole world is the territory or diocese." He is also patriarch of the West, bishop of Rome and its district, and temporal prince over the states of the church known as the Pontifical States—though the exercise of the last prerogative has been in abeyance since the events of 1859 and 1870. The pope has a primacy or supremacy, not only of honour but of power, authority, and immediate jurisdiction, over the universal church. When he is canonically elected, and has given his consent to the election, he possesses, without any other confirmation, authority over the whole church, even though at his election he may not have been either bishop, priest, deacon, or subdeacon, but a simple layman. In the early ages of the church subdeacons were occasionally elected, deacons more frequently, and bishops rarely. In the 11th century Gregory VII, previously known as the deacon Hildebrand, was ordained priest after his election and consecrated bishop later. The first pope invested with the episcopal dignity prior to his election to the pontificate was Formosus, bishop of Porto, elected 891. From the end of the 13th century it was the ordi-nary custom to choose the pope from the bishops; and from 1592 to 1775 only three were elected who had not been bishops previously. Clement X1V., Pius V., and Gregory XVI. were simple priests when elected to the papacy. The cardinals, to whom the election of the pontiff is reserved, generally select one of their own body for this important position. The privilege of consecrating the pope is reserved to the cardinal bishop of Ostia. From the moment of election the pope may perform all acts appertaining to his jurisdiction, such as granting indulgences, issuing censures, giving dispensations, canonizing saints, instituting bishops, creating cardinals, and suchlike. The powers inherent in the priesthood and episcopate, such as the remission of sins, the administration of the sacraments of confirmation, holy orders, &c., he cannot exercise unless he be ordained and consecrated. Hence the office of sovereign pontiff is a dignity not of order but of jurisdiction. His pronouncements are regarded as infallible when be defines a doctrine regarding faith and morals to be held by the whole church.

The office of pope is elective (See CONCLAVE), and lasts during, the life of the occupant, although he may renounce his dignity. When the election has taken place the fact is made known by the cardinal dean. Many ceremonies follow, such as coronation and taking possession of the cathedral church of Rome, St John Lateran. This latter ceremony is not strictly necessary, for after his coronation the pope enjoys the papal power in all its plenitude; but its object is his enthronization as bishop of the city and diocese of Rome and patriarch of the West. The cardinals are the princes and senators of the church, counsellors of the pontiff, co-operators with him, and vicars in the func-tions of the pontificate (see CARDINAL). To Pope Evaris-tus, fifth successor of St Peter, is attributed the creation of the first titles or parishes of Rome, the occupants of which were afterwards known as cardinals. At the begin-ning of the 3d century twenty-five of these titles existed. In the course of time they were increased to fifty and after-wards to seventy. In the Gerarchia Cattolica the titles are thus divided: suburban sees (cardinal bishops), 6 ; titular churches (cardinal priests), 52 ; and diaconates (cardinal deacons), 16 ; making a total of 74. The cardinalate, in the sense at present attached to it, is different from what it was in earlier ages, being now the highest dignity after the papacy. The greater part of the administration of the church—the chief subject of this article—is directed by the cardinals who are members of congregations, which correspond, in a certain measure, to the political ministries in modern states. These congregations are established in Rome by the sovereign pontiff, and their objects are, to inquire into, discuss, and decide the important affairs of the whole church and of the temporal dominions of the holy see. The cardinals are assisted by consultors or prelates, by distinguished ecclesiastics secular and regular, and by other officials appointed by the pope.

The head of every congregation is a cardinal prefect, though some congregations have the pope as prefect, e.g., the holy office, the apostolic visit, and the consistory. The secretary is ordinarily a prelate; in the holy office he is a cardinal. The acts, decrees, rescripts, and letters issued in the name of a congregation are subscribed gener-ally by the prefect, and always by the secretary. These two officials chiefly regulate the affairs of the congregation and submit to the pope, at periodical audiences, the matters which require his approval. The following are the more important congregations:—inquisition, consistorial, apo-stolic visit, bishops and regulars, council, residence of bishops, state of regulars, ecclesiastical immunities, propa-ganda fide, propaganda fide for Oriental affairs, commission for correction of books of the Oriental Church, index, sacred rites, ceremonial, regular discipline, indulgences and relies, examination of bishops, fabbrica of St Peter’s, extraordinary ecclesiastical affairs and studies. The congregation of the Holy Roman Inquisition or Holy Office (see INQUISITION) occupies the first place in regard to the quality of the matters of which it treats, as well as from its antiquity. Its object is the extirpation of heresies. It was formally established by Innocent III. (1198-1216), on the suggestion of St Dominic. The following class of cases, falls within its judgment:—crimes of heresy and heretical blasphemy, simultaneous polygamy, robbery of the sacred particles accompanied by insult offered to the same, solicitations ad turpia with abuse of sacramental confession, affected sanctity, contempt of sacred images, divination and sorcery, retention and reading of heretical books, &c. This congregation also proceeds against any one who, having been baptized, returns to paganism; against any one who celebrates mass or hears confessions, not being a priest; against false witnesses who depose in causes of faith, &c. Its authority extends, in matters of faith, over every person of whatsoever grade, condition, or dignity, whether bishops, magistrates, or communities, and no local or personal privilege exempts from its jurisdiction. Bishops, according to the council of Trent, being subject to the pope only, the Inquisition may institute inquiries, but may not pronounce sentence, this being reserved to the pontiff. Consistorial, instituted by Sixtus V., 1587, considers and judges on matters appertaining to the erection of new metropolitan or cathedral churches, or their limits; instances of bishops who desire to resign their churches; matters relating to chapters and the confirmation or exclusion of subjects elected by them to metro-politan, episcopal, or monastic dignities; the examination of coadjutors ; presentations or nominations of bishops made by sovereign princes and republics; concession of rights to the pallium; retention of dignities and major benefices incompatible with episcopal rights, and suchlike. The Apostolic Visit insists on the observance of that decree of the council of Trent which enjoins, as a duty, that every bishop shall visit in person or by means of a delegate the churches, pious institutions, &c., in his diocese. Bishops and Regulars: this congregation has to do chiefly with the government of monasteries and with complaints, from the inmates of these against bishops. It examines new institutions and their constitution ; the founding of new monasteries for both sexes, and the removal of subjects from one monastery to another ; questions regarding the alienation of the ecclesiastical property of regulars differences between ordinaries, parish priests, and regulars and a variety of questions of a similar nature. The Council: the fathers of the council of Trent, anticipating that doubts might arise concerning the interpretation of the doctrines and decrees published therein, besought Pius IV. to provide in the most fitting manner for such contingencies. This the pontiff did in approving and solemnly confirming the council in the bull Benedictus Deus (1563), interdicting, under severe penalties, any person whatsoever, secular or ecclesiastic, from publishing commentaries, glosses, or any interpretation whatsoever, upon the decrees of the council of Trent, it being enacted that all controversies, questions, and doubts should be submitted to the congregation of the council. The object of this congregation, therefore, is the interpret-ation of these doctrines and decrees. The congregation of Residence of Bishops may be considered as auxiliary to that of the council. It treats of the questions which concern the bishops’ obligation to reside in their own dioceses,—a most important matter treated of in the council of Trent. Even in 1352 Innocent VI. ordered, under pain of excommunication, that bishops and other beneficiaries having care of souls should reside in their respective dioceses. Innocent X. forbade cardinals to depart from Rome or its district—that is, a radius of 40 miles—with-out licence from the pope. The State of Regulars was instituted for enforcing on religious orders and congrega-tions the observance of their special rules and constitu-tions, Ecclesiastical Immunities treats of controversies concerning the liberty and independence of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and its violations, and prescribes that the immunities due to churches be respected. This congega-tion receives appeals of causes which in the first instance were brought before the episcopal courts. The various concordats entered into between Governments and the holy see have diminished the number of causes which come under the judgment of this congregation. For Pro-paganda Fide, see PROPAGANDA. Propaganda Fide for Oriental Afairs, which provides for the affairs of the Eastern Church, was created by Pius IX. in a brief dated 6th January 1862. It depends upon the cardinal prefect of Propaganda, but has its own secretary, consultors, and officials. The Commission for the Correction of Books of the Oriental Church took its origin from a report made by Philip IV. of Spain to Urban VIII. in 1631, to the effect that the United Greeks inhabiting the Spanish dominions, especially Sicily, complained that schismatics had printed an Euchologium, or liturgy of the mass, filled with errors, and he begged the pontiff to provide a remedy for the evil and its consequences. The correction of the Eucholo-gium. was decreed, and a special congregation—now called commission—composed of five cardinals, assisted by bishops and ecclesiastics of the Oriental Church, was appointed to correct the books of the Oriental Church, and to publish a correct Euchologium. The office of the congregation of the Index is to examine printed books and works contrary to faith or morals, and to compile an index or list, which is published at intervals, of the works the reading of which is prohibited. The method now followed in the examina-tion and condemnation of books, especially by Catholic authors, was fixed by Benedict XIV. A consultor examines the suspected work, and reports at a meeting of the con-gregation what it contains contrary to faith, good morals, ecclesiastical jurisdiction, &c. An examination of these passages is made, and it is determined by vote—the car-dinals having the decisive vote—whether the book shall be prohibited or corrected. The congregation of Sacred Rites was instituted by Sixtus V. in 1587, in order that in all the churches of Rome and the world, and in the pontifical chapel, in masses, divine offices, and everything else regarding divine worship, the ancient ceremonies may be rigorously followed; that if any primitive rite have fallen into disuse it inay be restored to its ancient splendour or reformed; that the pontificals, rituals, ceremonials, and all books of sacred rites may be emended and renewed; and that the divine offices of the saints may be examined. Particular attention is likewise given by this congregation to all things concerning the canonization of saints, the celebration of their feasts, so that all may be done in an orderly manner, correctly, and according to the traditions of the fathers. Hence this congregation decides contro-versies on all these and on cognate matters. Its most serious work consists in processes for the beatification and canonization of the servants of God, the honours paid to saints, and the recognition of martyrdoms suffered for the Catholic faith. Its first cause in this line was that of the twenty-three minor observants martyred in Japan in the pontificate of Urban VIII. One of the rules established by this pope for the recognition of saints enjoins that, except by licence of the congregation, no one can proceed to any act of canonization, beatification, or declaration of martyrdom until fifty years after the death of the subject. The congregation of Ceremonial investigates and watches over the exact fulfilment of the sacred liturgy, and regu-lates and decides questions and doubts regarding for-malities, pre-eminence amongst cardinals, prelates, and others, as well as certain sacred ceremonies in pontifical functions.

The work of the church in the world is directed im-mediately by the bishops, who receive their jurisdiction from the pope. The power inherent in the episcopal character and order is received from God directly and immediately. When established in a diocese by the pope, the bishop, in virtue of his title, receives the power of governing and of taking cognizance of all spiritual causes which regard his flock, whether laymen or ecclesiastics, with the exception of what is specially reserved to the head of the church, and he possesses and exercises these prerogatives under the jurisdiction of and in dependence on the pope. The bishops in the Catholic Church at the present time are (Gerarchia Cattolica, March 1885) thus divided : (a) patriarchal sees, of the Latin rite, 7 ; of the Oriental rite, 5; (b) archiepiscopal sees, of the Latin rite, immediately subject to the holy see, 14; with ecclesiastical provinces, 137; Oriental rite, with ecclesiastical provinces, 3; subject to patriarchates, 21 ; (c) episcopal sees, Latin rite, immediately subject to the holy see, 86 ; suffragans in ecclesiastical provinces, 579 ; Oriental rite, immediately subject to the holy see, 2 ; suffragans in ecclesiastical pro-vinces, 8; subject to patriarchates, 41; (d) sees nullius dioceseos, 17. The titles dependent on the sacred congre-gation of Propaganda are—apostolic delegations, 7; vicari-ates apostolic, 123 ; prefectures apostolic, 35. The total of these hierarchical titles amounts to 1085, and, including the 74 cardinalitial titles, to 1159. The vacant titles of all kinds amount to 107, and thus the whole hierarchy of the Catholic Church in March 1885 reached the total of 1266. Priests, placed in the second degree of the ecclesi-astical hierarchy, who are generally divided into parish priests and curates or assistants, are immediately under the direction of the bishops and administer directly to the people. Their primary office is the offering of the sacrifice of the mass. They also preach, bless, and administer bap-tism, penance, communion, and extreme unction. Their functions are numerous and important, and they constitute the working force of the church in its direct relations with its members throughout the world. Priests of religious orders exercise like functions, save those properly parochial.

The Oriental churches in communion with the holy see, holding the same belief and the same principle of authority as the Latin Church, have their own special rites, discipline, and liturgical language. These are chiefly the Greek, Melchite, Bulgarian, Ruthenian, Maronite, Syro-Chaldaic, Coptic, Armenian, and Roumanian rites. The Greek Ori-ental rite is admitted by the pure Greeks, the Slavs (in the Slav language), the Melchites of Syria (in Arabic), the Roumanians (in the Roumanian tongue), and the Georgians (in their own language). The Georgian Greek rite has no hierarchy, and many Georgians in Russia have passed to the Latin or Armenian rites. The Greek and Slav languages are approved by the church as ritual lan-guages ; Arabic is only tolerated.

Greeks in Communion.—These are found at present in Constanti-nople, in the mission of Malgara in Thrace, and consist of about sixty families, having one bishop and about ten priests. Iii this rite marriage is permitted to clerics previous to the reception of sacred orders; but there is a tendency to abolish the practice. In Greece nearly 30,000 Greeks have followed the Latin rite, and these have seven bishops and about a hundred priests. The mass of St Basil is celebrated by the Greeks ten times a year,—on the three vigils of Christmas, the Epiphany, Easter, Holy Thursday, the Feast of St Basil, and the first five Sundays of Lent. After St Basil, St John Chrysostom abbreviated this mass and gave it the form which has existed down to the present time amongst all the Orientals who follow the Greek rite.

Melchites.—The Melchites (see MELCHITES) have the Greek rite in the Arab language. They are found scattered throughout Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, and have one patriarch and ten bishops ruling over from 70,000 to 80,000 souls. Their clergy are, for the most part, regular, following the rule of St Basil, and are divided into three congregations,—that of San Salvatore near Saida (Sidon) in Lebanon, with about 300 persons who mostly have the care of souls ; the second, of St John the Baptist, is at Scieur in Lebanon, with thirty members ; and the third is the congregation of Aleppo, at St George in Lebanon, with forty members between priests and brothers. A small group of secular clergy is attached to the patri-archate. Besides these there are about forty secular married priests throughout the dioceses. The patriarchal residence is Damascus, which has two bishops-vicars,—one in Damascus, the other in Egypt. The ten dioceses are Tyre, Hauran, Saida or Sidon, Ptolemais, Beyrout, Zakle, Baalbec, Emessa, Aleppo, and Tripoli. Thus there are twelve bishops in all.

Bulgarians.—The United Bulgarians have the same Greek rite, with the mass in the Slav language. Their origin dates from 1860, when many prelates and people passed over to the Catholic Church. At present (1835) their numbers are somewhat diminished, amounting to about 9000 souls. They have one archbishop, who resides in Constantinople, a vicar-apostolic for Thrace, who resides in Adrianople, and another vicar-apostolic for Macedonia, who resides in Salonica. The Turkish Government officially recognizes them as Catholics. They are spread amongst the villages in Turkey and especially in Macedonia. Besides these there are in the diocese of Philippopolis about 15,000 Bulgarian Catholics who have em-braced the Latin rite. These are administered by a vicar-apostolic of the order of Capuchins.

Ruthenians.—The Ruthenians attribute their conversion to Christianity to St Methodius (860) and his brother St Cyril. The Ruthenian rite is Greek in the vicinity of Greece and Latin in the countries of western Europe. The Slav is the language used in both rites. The Ruthenians are numerous in eastern and western Galicia, in Poland, and in Hungary. In Russia they have two dioceses. In Galicia they number about 2,600,000 with 2000 priests; in Hungary the two dioceses of Eperies and Munkacs count half a million of Catholics. In Galicia they have one metro-politan (Lemberg) and two bishops, in Hungary two bishops, and in Crisio one, with about 200 priests in these three dioceses. They have a Greek Ruthenian college at Rome and another in Vienna.

Maronites.—The greater number of the MARONITES (q.v.) are in Lebanon, where the patriarch resides ; others are in Syria, in Egypt, and in Cyprus. The patriarchal title is Antioch; the archbishops are those of Aleppo, Archis, Berito, Damascus, Tyre and Sidon, and Tripoli; the bishops of Cyprus, Heliopolis, and Gibail and Botri. The Maronites of Alexandria are administered by a procurator of the patriarch. The population of these dioceses is nearly 400,000. The number of regular priests is about 1200, of secular priests about 600. In Mount Lebanon there are seventy-five convents of men and women. Five colleges or seminaries depend upon the patriarch and four others on the archbishops. In these seminaries the clerics learn Arabic, Syriac, Latin, French, and Italian. The language used in the mass and in the offices of the church is Syriac, that spoken by the people is Arabic.

Syro-Chaldeans.—The Oriental Syrians are called, ecclesiastically Chaldeans. This name comprises, not only the, inhabitants of Chaldea, but also those of Assyria, Mesopotamia, and a part of Persia. To distinguish them from those having other rites equally Syrian, they were exclusively termed Chaldeans by Pope Eugenius IV. (1431-1447). Previous to the council of Florence (1438 ) they were called Orientals or Syro-Orientals. The Catholic Chaldeans have a patriarch who for a long period has had his residence at Mosul (Mesopotamia), and has the title of patriarch of Babylonia with the archiepiscopal jurisdiction over the city of Baghdad. There are five archdioceses—Amida or Diarbekir in Mesopotamia, Seert in Assyria, Salmas and Adorbigana in Persia, Kerkuk (Carcha) in Parthic Assyria, and Amadia, in Kurdistan. The dioceses are Mardin and Gezira in Mesopotamia, Zaku in Assyria-Media, Sena in Persia, Bassorah on the Persian Gulf, and Acri and Zebari in the mountains of Kurdistan. The number of secular clergy in the patriarchate, archdioceses, and dioceses approximates 200. There is a congregation of Antonian monks, having the title of S. Hormisdas, who have an abbot-general, five houses or convents, forty priests, and a hundred monks. The other religious houses bear the names of Mother of God, St George, St Abraham, and St James. The largest number of Catholics is in the diocese of Mosul with Baghdad, 25,000. In all there are over 90,000 Catholics. The language of the mass and church office is Syro-Chaldaic.

Copts.—The Coptic rite prevails throughout all Egypt. At one time there was a liturgy of Lower and another of Upper Egypt. In the former the Mempbitic dialect was in use and the Theban dialect in the latter. But as the patriarchs of Alexandria were Greeks they, followed by several churches in Egypt, changed the liturgy into the Greek language ; and after the schism in the 5th century the liturgy became Coptic, as the patriarchs were Copts. There are three liturgies in use at present—that of St Basil, that of St Gregory Nazianzen, and that of St Mark, rearranged by St Cyril of Alex-andria. The Theban dialect is no longer used; but the Memphitic still prevails, and in it the offices of the church are recited. The Catholic population is only about 6000, with twenty-two priests, one bishop, and a vicar-apostolic, whose residence is at Cairo.

Armenians.—The Armenians (see ARMENIAN CHURCH) regard St Gregory the Illuminator as their apostle. Pope Benedict XIV. instituted the patriarchate of Cilicia in 1742, and Pius VIII in 1830 instituted the Armenian Catholic primacy in Constantinople. In 1867 Pius IX. united Cilicia with the primacy of Constantinople, so that the patriarch now bears the title of Cilicia and has his residence in Constantinople. Turkey, Russia, Asia Minor, Armenia (Greater and Lesser), Mesopotamia, Syria, and Egypt have Armenian Catholics, who altogether number 100,000 at the present time (1885), There are ten archbishops and bishops and over 350 priests. They also possess religious orders, the Mechitarists of Venice and if Vienna, and have an Armenian college at Rome and an Armenian seminary at Bzommar in Mourt Lebanon. The liturgical lauguage is literary Armenian, and they have a special rite and liturgy. The people speak vulgar Armenian and Turkish. There is an institute -of Armenian sisters of the Immaculate Conception at Constantinople a to attend to the education of young girls, especially those newly converted.

Roumanians.—As early as the council of Florence the Roumanian metropolitan of Moldavia subscribed the decree of union; but the time had not yet come for an actual union with Rome. In 1700, under the metropolitan Theophilus and his successor Athanasius I., the great national synod of Alba Julia (Fogaras) was held, in which the bishop, the archpriests, and all the clergy of the Roumanian Church of Transylvania "freely and spontaneously by the impulse of God" concluded a union with the Roman Catholic Church. This declaration was signed by the. metropolitan, by fifty-four archpriests (protopapas), and by 1561 priests. Historians say that 200,000 families were united to Rome on that day. Some afterwards again fell away, but there is at present a great movement prevailing amongst these towards union. The United Catholics are chiefly in Transylvania and Hungary and number about a million and a half, with from 1500 to 1600 priests. In 1854 Pius IX. erected into an ecclesiastical province the United Roumanian Church with an arch-bishopric, Alba Julia (Fogaras), and three bishoprics. To the diocese of Grosswardein in Hungary was added that of Lugos in the Banat and that of Armenopolis (Samos-Ujvar), which constitute a flourishing ecclesiastical province. For the education of the clergy four places for students were given by Pius IX. in the Greek college at Rome, and they have sixteen places in the central seminary of Budapest. They have two seminaries, one in the metropolitan diocese with fifty and another at Armenopolis with sixty students. In the diocese of Armenopolis the number of souls is 647,666, with 486 parishes and a monastery. In the archdiocese of Alba Julia the number is 361,000, with 729 parishes and 706 priests. At Grosswardein and Lugos the number of Catholics is less. The rite in use is the Greek, but the language is the Roumanian. This is the only rite which employs the vulgar tongue. (P. L. C.)

English Law relating to Roman Catholics.

The history of the old penal laws against Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom has been sketched in the articles ENGLAND and IRELAND.1 The principal English Acts directed against "popish recusants"2 will be found in the list given in the Acts repealing them (7 and 8 Vict. c.102; 9 and 10 Vict. c. 59). The principal Scottish Act was 1700, c. 3; the principal Irish Act, 2 Anne c. 3. Numerous decisions illustrating the practical operation of the old law in Ireland are collected in Howard’s Cases on the Popery Laws, 1775. The Roman Catholic Emancipa-tion Act, 1829 (10 Geo. IV. c. 7), although it gave Roman Catholic citizens in the main complete civil and religious liberty, at the same time left them under certain disabilities, trifling in comparison with those under which they laboured before 1829. Nor did the Act affect in any way the long series of old statutes directed against the assumption of authority by the Roman see in England. The earliest of these which is still law is the Statute of Provisors of 1351 (25 Edw. III. st. 4). Most of what has been already stated under NONCONFORMITY (q.v.) as to the legal position of nonconformity may be applied to the Roman Catholic faith. The effect of 2 and 3 Will. IV. c. 115 is to place Roman Catholic schools, places of worship and education, and charities, and the property held therewith, under the laws applying to Protestant nonconformists. The Toleration Act does not apply to Roman Catholics, but legislation of a similar kind, especially the Relief Act of 1791 (31 Geo. III. c. 32), exempts the priest from parochial offices, such as those of churchwarden and constable, and from serving in the militia or on a jury, and enables all Roman Catholics scrupling the oaths of office to exercise the office of churchwarden and some other offices by deputy. The priest is, unlike the nonconformist minister, regarded as being in holy orders. He cannot, therefore, sit in the House of Commons, but there is nothing to prevent a peer who is a priest from sitting and voting in the House of Lords. If a priest becomes a convert to the Church of England he need not be re-ordained. The remaining law affecting Roman Catholics may be classed under the following five heads.

(1) Office. There are certain offices still closed to Roman Catholics. By the Act of Settlement a Papist or the husband or wife of a Papist cannot be king or queen. The Act of 1829 provides that nothing therein contained is to enable a Roman Catholic to hold the office of guardian and justice of the United Kingdom, or of regent of the United Kingdom; of lord chancellor, lord keeper, or lord commissioner of the great seal of Great Britain or Ireland or lord lieutenant of Ireland; of high commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, or of any office in the Church of England or Scotland, the ecclesiastical courts, cathedral foundations, and certain colleges. The disability in the case of the lord chancellor of Ireland was removed by statute in 1867, with necessary limitations as to ecclesiastical patronage, and the office has been held twice since that date by the late Lord O’Hagan. The Act of 1829 preserved the liability of Roman Catholics; to take certain oaths of office, but these have been modified by later legislation (see 29 and 30 Vict. c. 19; 30 and 31 Vict. c. 75; 31 and 32 Vict. c. 72). Legislation has been in the direction of omitting words which might be supposed to give offence to Roman Catholics. (2) Title. The Act of 1829 forbids the assumption by any person, other than the person authorized by law, of the name, style, or title of an archbishop, bishop, or dean of the Church of England. The Ecclesiastical Titles Act, 1851, went further and forbade the assumption by an unauthorized person of a title from any place in the United Kingdom, whether or not such place were the seat of an archbishopric, bishopric, or deanery. This act was, however, repealed in 1867, but the provisions of the Act of 1829 are still in force. (3) Religious Orders. It was enacted by the Act of 1829 that "every Jesuit and every member of any other religious order, community, or society of the Church of Rome bound by monastic or religious vows" was, within six months after the commencement of the Act, to deliver to the clerk of the peace of the county in which he should reside a notice or statement in the form given to the schedule to the Act, and that every Jesuit or member of such religious order coming into the realm after the commencement of the Act should be guilty of a misdemeanour and should be banished from the United Kingdom for life (with an exception in favour of natural-born subjects duly registered). A secretary of state, being a Protestant, was empowered to grant licences to Jesuits, &c., to come into the United Kingdom and remain there for a period not exceeding six months. An account of these licences was to be laid annually before parliament. The admission of any person as a regular ecclesiastic by any such Jesuit, &c., was made a misdemeanour, and the person so admitted was to be banished for life. Nothing in the Act was to extend to religious orders of females. These provisions exist in posse only, and have, it is believed, never been put into force. (4) Superstitious Uses. Gifts to superstitious uses are void both at common law and by statute. It is not easy to determine what gifts are to be regarded as gifts to superstitious uses. Like contracts contrary to public policy, they depend to a great extent for their illegality upon the discretion of the court in the particular case. The Act of 23 Hen. VIII. c. 10 makes void any assurance of lands to the use (to have obits perpetual) or the continual service of a priest for ever or for threescore or fourscore years. The Act of 1 Edw. VI. c. 14 (specially directed to the suppression of chantries) vests in the crown all money paid by corporations and all lands appointed to the finding or maintenance of any priest or any anniversary or obit or other like thing, or of any light or lamp in any church or chapel maintained within five years before 1547. The Act may still be of value in the construction of old grants, and in affording examples of what the legislature regarded as superstitious uses. Gifts which the courts have held void on the analogy of those mentioned in the Acts of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. are a devise for the good of the soul of the testator, a bequest to certain Roman Catholic priests that the testator may have the, benefit of their prayers and masses, a bequest in trust to apply a fund to circulate a book teaching the supremacy of the pope in matters of faith, a bequest to maintain a taper for evermore before the image of Our Lady. The court may compel discovery of a secret trust for superstitious uses. Since 2 and 3 Will. IV. c. 115 gifts for the propagation of the Roman Catholic faith are not void as made to superstitious uses. It should be noticed that the doctrine of superstitious uses is not confined to the Roman Catholic religion, though the question has generally arisen in the case of gifts made by persons of that religion. The Roman Catholic Charities Act, 1860, enables the court to separate a lawful charitable trust from any part of the estate subject to any trust or provision deemed to be superstitious. It also provides that in the absence of any written document the usage of twenty years is to be conclusive evidence of the application of charitable trusts. (5) Patronage. A Roman Catholic cannot present to a benefice, prebend, or other ecclesiastical living, or collate or nominate to any free school, hospital, or donative (3 Jac. I. c. 5). Such patronage is by the Act vested in the universities, Oxford taking the city of London and twenty-five counties in England and Wales, mostly south of the Trent, Cambridge the remaining twenty-seven. The principle is affirmed in subsequent Acts (1 Will. and Mary, sess. 1, c. 26 ; 12 Anne, st. 2, c. 14 ; 11 Geo. II. c. 17). If the right of presentation to an ecclesiastical benefice belongs to any office under the crown, and that office is held by a Roman Catholic, the archbishop of Canterbury exercises the right for the time being (10 Geo. IV. c. 7, s. 17). No Roman Catholic may advise the crown as to the exercise of its ecclesiastical patronage (ib., s. 18). A Roman Catholic, if a member of a lay corporation, cannot vote in any ecclesiastical appointment (ib., s. 15). Grants and devises of advowsons, &c., by Roman Catholics are void, unless for valuable consideration to a Protestant purchaser (11 Geo. II. c. 17, s. 5). Where a quare impedit is pending before any court, the court may compel the patron to take an oath that there is no secret trust for the benefit of a Roman Catholic. See QUARE IMPEDIT. (J. W†.)


FOOTNOTES (page 631)

(1) See also Stephen’s History of the Criminal Law, vol, ii. p. 483 Anstey, The Law affecting Roman Catholics, 1842.

(2) A recusant signified a person who refused to duly attend his parish church.

The article above was written by two authors:

(a) The main section of the article
P. L. Connellan, Rome.

(b) The final section (English Law relating to Roman Catholics)
James Williams, D.C.L.; Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford; Hon. LL.D., Yale; author of The Schoolmaster and the Law, Wills and Succession, The Institutes of Justinian, illustrated by English Law, and other works on legal questions; also of A Lawyer's Leisure, Ethandune, Simple Stories of London, in verse.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries