1179- III Lateran Council

1179 – Third Lateran Council

Canons related to religious and clergy

3. Since in holy orders and ecclesiastical ministries both maturity of age, a serious character and knowledge of letters should be required, much more should these qualities be required in a bishop, who is appointed for the care of others and ought to show in himself how others should live in the house of the Lord. Therefore, lest what has been done with regard to certain persons through the needs of the time should be taken as a precedent for the future, we declare by the present decree that no one should be chosen bishop unless he has already reached the age of thirty, been born in lawful wedlock and also is shown to be worthy by his life and learning. When he has been elected and his election has been confirmed, and he has the administration of ecclesiastical property, after the time has passed for the consecration of bishops as laid down by the canons let the person to whom the benefices which he held belong, have the free disposition of them. Further, with regard to the inferior ministries, for instance that of dean or archdeacon, and others which have the care of souls annexed, let no one at all receive them, or even the rule of parish churches, unless he has already reached his twenty-fifth year of age, and can be approved for his learning and character. When he has been nominated, if the archdeacon is not ordained deacon, and the deans (and the rest after due warning) are not ordained priests within the time fixed by the canons, let them be removed from that office and let it be conferred on another who is both able and willing to fulfill it properly; and let them not be allowed the evasion of recourse to an appeal, should they wish by an appeal to protect themselves against a transgression of the constitution. We order that this should be observed with regard to both past and future appointments, unless it is contrary to the canons. Certainly if clerics appoint someone contrary to this rule, let them know that they are deprived of the power of election and are suspended from ecclesiastical benefices for three years. For it is right that at least the strictness of ecclesiastical discipline should restrain those who are not recalled from evil by the fear of God. But if any bishop has acted in anyone’s interest contrary to this decree, or has consented to such actions, let him lose the power of conferring the foresaid offices, and let these appointments be made by the chapter, or by the metropolitan if the chapter cannot agree.

8. Let no ecclesiastical ministries or even benefices or churches be assigned or promised to anyone before they are vacant, so that nobody may seem to wish for the death of his neighbour to whose position or benefice he believes himself to be the successor. For since we find this forbidden even in the laws of the pagans themselves, it is utterly disgraceful and calls for the punishment of God’s judgment if the hope of future succession should have any place in God’s church when even pagans have taken care to condemn it. But whenever ecclesiastical prebends or any offices happen to become vacant in a church, or are even now vacant, let them no longer remain unassigned and let them be conferred within six months on persons who are able to administer them worthily. If the bishop, when it concerns him, delays to make the appointment, let it be done by the chapter; but if the election belongs to the chapter and it does not make the appointment within the prescribed time, let the bishop proceed according to God’s will, with the advice of religious men; or if by chance all fail to do so, let the metropolitan dispose of these matters without opposition from them and in accordance with God’s will.

9. Since we ought both to plant holy religion and in every way to cherish it when planted, we shall never fulfil this better than if we take care to nourish what is right and to correct what stands in the way of the progress of truth by means of the authority entrusted to us {8 }. Now we have learnt from the strongly worded complaints of our brethren and fellow bishops that the Templars and Hospitallers, and other professed religious, exceeding the privileges granted them by the apostolic see have often disregarded episcopal authority, causing scandal to the people of God and grave danger to souls. We are told that they receive churches from the hands of lay persons; that they admit those under excommunication and interdict to the sacraments of the church and to burial; that in their churches they appoint and remove priests without the knowledge of the bishop; that when the brothers go to seek alms, and it is granted that the churches should be open on their arrival once a year and the divine services should be celebrated in them, several of them from one or more houses often go to a place under interdict and abuse the privileges granted {9 } to them by holding divine service, and then presume to bury the dead in the said churches. On the occasion also of the brotherhoods which they establish in many places, they weaken the bishops’ authority, for contrary to their decision and under cover of some privileges they seek to defend all who wish to approach and join their brotherhood. In these matters, because the faults arise not so much with the knowledge or advice of the superiors as from the indiscretion of some of the subjects, we have decreed that abuses should be removed and doubtful points settled. We absolutely forbid that these orders and all other religious should receive churches and tithes from the hands of lay persons, and we even order them to put away what they have recently received contrary to this decree. We declare that those who are excommunicated, or interdicted by name, must be avoided by them and all others according to the sentence of the bishop. In churches which do not belong to them by full right, let them present to the bishops the priests to be instituted, so that while they are answerable to the bishops for the care of the people, they may give to their own members a proper account of temporal matters. Let them not presume to remove those priests who have been appointed without first consulting the bishops. If the Templars or Hospitallers come to a church which is under an interdict, let them be allowed to hold the services of the church only once a year and let them not bury there the bodies of the dead. With regard to the brotherhoods we declare as follows: if any do not give themselves entirely to the said brothers but decide to keep their possessions, they are in no way on this account exempt from the sentence of the bishops, but the bishops may exercise their power over them as over other parishioners whenever they are to be corrected for their faults. What has been said about the said brothers, we declare shall be observed with regard to other religious who presume to claim for themselves the rights of bishops and dare to violate their canonical decisions and the tenor of our privileges. If they do not observe this decree, let the churches in which they dare so to act be placed under an interdict, and let what they do be considered void.

 10. Monks are not to be received in a monastery for money nor are they allowed money of their own. They are not to be stationed individually in towns or cities or parish churches, but they are to remain in larger communities or with some of their brethren, nor are they to await alone among people of the world the attack of their spiritual foes, since Solomon says, Woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. If anyone when demanded gives something for his reception, let him not proceed to sacred orders and let the one who has received him be punished by loss of his office. If he has money in his possession, unless it has been granted him by the abbot for a specific purpose, let him be removed from the communion of the altar, and any one who is found at his death with money in his possession {10 } is not to receive burial among his brethren and mass is not to be offered for him. We order that this is also to be observed with regard to other religious. Let the abbot who does not exercise care in such matters know that he will incur the loss of his office. Neither priories nor obediences are to be handed over to anyone for a sum of money; otherwise both giver and receiver are to be deprived of ministry in the church. Priors, when they have been appointed to conventual churches, are not to be changed except for a clear and reasonable cause, for instance if they are wastrels or live immoral lives or have committed an offence for which they clearly should be removed, or if on account of the demands of higher office they should be transferred on the advice of their brethren.

11. Clerics in holy orders, who in open concubinage keep their mistresses in their houses, should either cast them out and live continently or be deprived of ecclesiastical office and benefice. Let all who are found guilty of that unnatural vice for which the wrath of God came down upon the sons of disobedience and destroyed the five cities with fire, if they are clerics be expelled from the clergy or confined in monasteries to do penance; if they are laymen they are to incur excommunication and be completely separated from the society of the faithful. If any cleric without clear and necessary cause presumes to frequent convents of nuns, let the bishop keep him away; and if he does not stop, let him be ineligible for an ecclesiastical benefice.

12. Clerics in the subdiaconate and above and also those in minor orders, if they are supported by ecclesiastical revenues, should not presume to become advocates in legal matters before a secular judge, unless they happen to be defending their own case or that of their church, or acting on behalf of the helpless who cannot conduct their own cases. Let clerics not presume to take upon themselves the management of towns or even secular jurisdiction under princes or seculars so as to become their ministers of justice. If anyone dares to act contrary to this decree, and so contrary to the teaching of the Apostle who says, No soldier of God gets entangled in secular affairs, and acts as a man of this world, let him be deprived of ecclesiastical ministry, on the grounds that neglecting his duty as a cleric he plunges into the waves of this world to please its princes. We decree in the strictest terms that any religious who presumes to attempt any of the above-mentioned things should be punished.

13. Because some, setting no limit to their avarice, strive to obtain several ecclesiastical dignities and several parish churches contrary to the decrees of the holy canons, so that though they are scarcely able to fulfil one office sufficiently they claim the revenues of very many, we strictly forbid this for the future. Therefore when it is necessary to entrust a church or ecclesiastical ministry to anyone, the person sought for this office should be of such a kind that he is able to reside in the place and exercise his care for it himself. If the contrary is done both he who receives it is to be deprived of it, because he has received it contrary to the sacred canons, and he who gave it is to lose his power of bestowing it.

-To go to the council document click here

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