23rd  Session, Decree of Reformation

 July 15, 1563.

Bishops, except in case of illness, shall confer Order in person.

Bishops shall themselves confer orders; but, should they be prevented by illness, they shall not send their subjects to another bishop for ordination, unless they have been already approved of and examined.

Who are to be initiated by the first tonsure.

None shall be initiated by the first tonsure, who have not received the sacrament of Confirmation; and who have not been taught the rudiments of the faith; and who do not know how to read and write; and in whose regard there is not a probable conjecture, that they have chosen this manner of life, that they may render unto God a faithful service, and not that they may fraudulently withdraw themselves from Secular jurisdiction.

Wherewith those who are to be ordained are to be furnished.

Those who are to be promoted to minor orders shall have a good testimonial from their parish priest; and from the master of the school in which they are educated. As to those who are to be raised to any one of the greater orders, they shall, a month before ordination, report to the bishop, who shall commission the parish priest, or such other person as may be deemed more expedient, to state publicly in the church the names and the desire of those who wish to be promoted; and to diligently inform himself, from persons worthy of credit, of the birth, age, morals, and life of those who are to be ordained, and shall transmit to the bishop himself, as soon as possible, letters testimonial containing the actual inquiry that has been made.

The age of fourteen years is required for an ecclesiastical benfice; who is to enjoy the privilege of the (ecclesiastical) court.

No one, after being initiated by the first tonsure, or even after being constituted in minor orders, shall be able to hold a benefice before his fourteenth year. Further, he shall not enjoy the privilege of the (ecclesiastical) court, unless he have an ecclesiastical benefice; or, wearing the ecclesiastical dress and tonsure, he serves in some church by the bishop’s order, or lives with the bishop’s permission in an ecclesiastical seminary, or in some school, or university, on the way as it were to receive the greater orders. As regards married clerks, the constitution of Boniface VIII., which begins, clerici qui cum unicis, shall be observed; provided the said clerks, being deputed by the bishop to the service or ministry of some church, serve and minister therein, and wear the clerical dress and tonsure: no privilege, or custom, even immemorial, availing any one herein.

Those to be ordained are to be examined by persons versed in divine and human laws.

The holy Synod, adhering to the traces of the ancient canons, ordains, that when a bishop has arranged to hold an ordination, all who may wish to be received into the sacred ministry shall be summoned to the city, for the Thursday before the said ordination, or for such other day as the bishop shall think fit. [Page 181] And the bishop, calling to his assistance priests and other prudent persons, well skilled in the divine law, and of experience in the constitutions of the church, shall diligently investigate and examine the parentage, person, age, education, morals, learning, and faith of those who are to be ordained.

How, and by whom, each ought to be ordained.

Ordinations of sacred orders shall be celebrated publicly, at the time appointed by law, and in the cathedral churches, in the presence of the canons of that church, who are to be invited for that purpose; but, if they are celebrated in some other place of the diocese, in the presence of the clergy of the place; the principal church being always, as far as possible, made use of. But each one shall be ordained by his own bishop. And if any one ask to be promoted by another bishop, this shall by no means be allowed him, even under the pretext of any general or special rescript or privilege whatsoever, even at the appointed times; unless his probity and morals be recommended by the testimony of his own Ordinary; otherwise, he who ordains him shall be suspended from conferring orders during a year, and he who has been ordained shall be suspended from exercising the orders which he has received, for as long a period as shall seem expedient to his own Ordinary.

A bishop ordaining one of his own household, shall at once and really confer upon him a benefice.

A bishop may not ordain one of his household, who is not his subject, unless he has lived with him for the space of [Page 182] three years; and he shall really, and without fraud of any kind, at once confer on him a benefice; any custom, even though immemorial, to the contrary notwithstanding.

Prelates inferior to bishops shall not give the tonsure, or minor orders, save to Regulars their own subjects; neither shall they, nor any Chapters whatsoever, grant dimissory letters; a more grievous penalty is enacted against those who offend against this decree.

It shall not henceforth be lawful for abbots, or for any other persons whatsoever, howsoever exempted, being within the limits of any diocese, even though they be said to be of no diocese, or to be exempted, to confer the tonsure, or minor orders on any one who is not a Regular subject to them; nor shall the said abbots, and other exempted persons, or any colleges, or Chapters whatsoever, even those of cathedral churches, grant letters dimissory to any Secular clerics to be ordained by others. But the ordination of all these persons shall appertain to the bishops within the limits of whose diocese they are, all things considered in the decrees of this holy Synod being observed; any privilege, prescriptions, or customs, even though immemorial, notwithstanding. And the Synod ordains, that the penalty imposed on those, who, contrary to the decree of this holy Synod under Paul III., obtain, during the vacancy of the episcopal See, letters dimissory from the Chapter, be also extended to those who shall obtain the said letters, not from the Chapter, but from any other persons whatsoever, who, during the vacancy of the See, succeed to the jurisdiction of the bishop, in lieu of the Chapter. And they who give dimissory letters, contrary to the form of this decree, shall be ipso jure suspended during a year from their office and benefice.

The interstices, and certain other regulations, to be observed in receiving minor orders.

The minor orders shall not be given but to such as understand the Latin language at least, observing the appointed interstices of time, unless the bishop shall think it more expedient to act otherwise; that so they may be the more accurately taught how great is the obligation of this their state of life; and may exercise themselves in each office, agreeably to the appointment of the bishop; and this in the church to which they shall be assigned, unless they happen to be absent on account of their studies; and may thus ascend step by step: that so with their increasing age they may grow in worthiness of life and in learning; of which they will give proof especially by the example of their good conduct, by their assiduous service in the church, their greater reverence towards priests and the superior orders, and by a more frequent communion than heretofore of the Body of Christ. And whereas from these orders is the entrance unto higher orders and to the most sacred mysteries, no one shall be admitted thereunto, whom the promise of knowledge does not point out as worthy of the greater orders. And such shall not be promoted to sacred orders till a year after the reception of the last degree of minor orders; unless necessity, or the utility of the church, in the bishop’s judgment, shall require otherwise.

Age required for the major orders; the deserving only to be admitted.

No one shall for the future be promoted to the order of subdeaconship before the twenty-second year of age; to that of deaconship before his twenty-third year; to that of priesthood before his twenty-fifth year. Nevertheless, bishops are to know, that not all who have attained to that age must needs be admitted to the aforesaid orders, but those only who are worthy, and whose commendable life is an old age. Regulars likewise shall not be ordained under the above age, nor without a diligent examination by the bishop; all privileges whatsoever in this regard being completely set aside.

On the conditions required in the Ordination of a Subdeacon and Deacon: on no one shall two sacred Orders be conferred on the same day.

Such as have a good testimonial, and have been already tried in minor orders, and are instructed in letters, and in those things which belong to the exercise of their orders, shall be ordained subdeacons and deacons. They shall have a hope, with God’s help, to be able to live continently; they shall serve in the churches to which they may be assigned; and are to know that it is very highly becoming that, after ministering at the altar, they should receive the sacred communion, at least on the Lord’s days and solemnities. Those who have been promoted to the sacred order of the subdeaconship shall not, until they have remained therein during at least a year, be permitted to ascend to a higher degree, unless the bishop shall judge otherwise. Two sacred orders shall not be conferred on the same day, even upon Regulars; any privileges and indults whatsoever, to whomsoever granted, to the contrary notwithstanding.

Who are to be raised to the Priesthood: their office.

Those who have conducted themselves piously and faithfully in their precedent functions, and are promoted to the order of priesthood, shall have a good testimonial, and be persons who not only have served in their office of deacon during at least an entire year,–unless for the utility and the necessity of the Church, the bishop should judge otherwise,–but who have also been approved to be, by a careful previous examination, capable of teaching the people those things which it is necessary for all to know unto salvation, as also fit to administer the sacraments; and so conspicuous for piety and chasteness of morals, as that a shining example of good works and a lesson how to live may be expected from them. The bishop shall take care that they celebrate mass at least on the Lord’s Days, and on solemn festivals; but, if they have the cure of souls, so often as to satisfy their obligation. The bishop may, for a lawful cause, grant a dispensation to those who have been promoted per saltum, provided they have not exercised the ministry (of that order).

No one shall hear confessions, unless he be approved of by the Ordinary.

Although priests receive in their ordination the power of absolving from sins; nevertheless, the holy Synod ordains, that no one, even though he be a Regular, is able to hear the confessions of Seculars, not even of priests, and that he is not to be reputed fit thereunto, unless he either holds a parochial benefice, or is, by the bishops, after an examination if they shall think it necessary, or in some other manner, judged capable; and has obtained their approval, which shall be granted gratuitously; any privileges, and custom whatsoever, though immemorial, to the contrary notwithstanding.

Those who are ordained shall be assigned to a particular church.

Whereas no one ought to be ordained, who, in the judgment of his own bishop, is not useful or necessary for his churches, the holy Synod, adhering to the traces of the sixth canon of the council of Chalcedon, ordains, that no one shall for the future be ordained without being attached to that church, or pious place, for the need, or utility of which he is promoted; there to discharge his duties, and not wander about without any certain abode. And if he shall quit that place without consulting the bishop, he shall be interdicted from the exercise of his sacred (orders). Furthermore, no cleric, who is a stranger, shall, without letters commendatory from his own Ordinary, be admitted by any bishop to celebrate the divine mysteries, and to administer the sacraments.

In what manner the exercise of the minor orders is to be restored.

That the functions of holy orders, from the deacon to the janitor,-which functions have been laudably received in the Church from the times of the apostles, and which have been for some time interrupted in very many places,-may be again brought into use in accordance with the sacred canons; and that they may not be traduced by heretics as useless; the holy Synod, burning with the desire of restoring the pristine usage, ordains that, for the future, such functions shall not be exercised but by those who are actually in the said orders; and It exhorts in the Lord all and each of the prelates of the churches, and commands them, that it be their care to restore the said functions, as far as it can be conveniently done, in the cathedral, collegiate, and parochial churches of their dioceses, where the number of the people and the revenues of the church can support it; and, to those who exercise those functions, they shall assign salaries out of some part of the revenues of any simple benefices, or those of the fabric of the church,-if the funds allow of it,-or out of the revenues of both together, of which stipends they may, if negligent, be mulcted in a part, or be wholly deprived thereof, according to the judgment of the Ordinary. And if there should not be unmarried clerics at hand to exercise the functions of the four minor orders, their place may be supplied by married clerics of approved life; provided they have not been twice married, be competent to discharge the said duties, and wear the tonsure and the clerical dress in church.

Method of establishing Seminaries for Clerics, and of educating the same therein.

Wereas the age of youth, unless it be rightly trained, is prone to follow after the pleasures of the world; and unless it be formed, from its tender years, unto piety and religion, before habits of vice have taken possession of the whole man, it never will perfectly, and without the greatest, and well-nigh special, help of Almighty God, persevere in ecclesiastical discipline; the holy Synod ordains, that all cathedral, metropolitan, and other churches greater than these, shall be bound, each according to its means and the extent of the diocese, to maintain, to educate religiously, and to train in ecclesiastical discipline, a certain number of youths of their city and diocese, or, if that number cannot be met with there, of that province, in a college to be chosen by the bishop for this purpose near the said churches, or in some other suitable place. Into this college shall be received such as are at least twelve years old, born in lawful wedlock, and who know how to read and write competently, and whose character and inclination afford a hope that they will always serve in the ecclesiastical ministry. And It wishes that the children of the poor be principally selected; though It does not however exclude those of the more wealthy, provided they be maintained at their own expense, and manifest a desire of serving God and the Church. The bishop, having divided these youths into as many classes as he shall think fit, according to their number, age, and progress in ecclesiastical discipline, shall, when it seems to him expedient, assign some of them to the ministry of the churches, the others he shall keep in the college to be instructed; and shall supply the place of those who have been withdrawn, by others; that so this college may be a perpetual seminary of ministers of God. And that the youths may be the more advantageously trained in the aforesaid ecclesiastical discipline, they shall always at once wear the tonsure and the clerical dress; they shall learn grammar, singing, ecclesiastical computation, and the other liberal arts; they shall be instructed in sacred Scripture; ecclesiastical works; the homilies of the saints; the manner of administering the sacraments, especially those things which shall seem adapted to enable them to hear confessions; and the forms of the rites and ceremonies. The bishop shall take care that they be present every day at the sacrifice of the mass, and that they confess their sins at least once a month; and receive the body of our Lord Jesus Christ as the judgment of their confessor shall direct; and on festivals serve in the cathedral and other churches of the place.

All which, and other things advantageous and needful for this object, all bishops shall ordain-with the advice of two of the senior and most experienced canons chosen by himself-as the Holy Spirit shall suggest; and shall make it their care, by frequent visitations, that the same be always observed. The froward, and incorrigible, and the disseminators of evil morals, they shall punish sharply, even by expulsion if necessary; and, removing all hindrances, they shall carefully foster whatsoever appears to tend to preserve and advance so pious and holy an institution. And forasmuch as some certain revenues will be necessary, for raising the building of the college, for paying their salaries to the teachers and servants, for the maintenance of the youths, and for other expenses; besides those funds which are, in some churches and places, set apart for training or maintaining youths, and which are to be hereby looked upon as applied to this seminary under the said charge of the bishop; the bishops as aforesaid, with the advice of two of the Chapter,–of whom one shall be chosen by the bishop, and the other by the Chapter itself, and also of two of the clergy of the city, the election of one of whom shall in like manner be with the bishop, and of the other with the clergy,–shall take a certain part or portion, out of the entire fruits of the episcopal revenue, and of the chapter, and of all dignities whatsoever, personates, offices, prebends, portions, abbies, and priories, of whatsoever order, even though Regular, or of whatsoever quality, or condition they may be, and of hospitals which are conferred under title or administration, pursuant to the constitution of the Council of Vienne, which begins Quia contingit; and of all benefices whatsoever, even those belonging to Regulars, even those which are under any right of patronage, even those that are exempted, that are of no diocese, or are annexed to other churches, monasteries, hospitals, or to any other pious places, even such as are exempted; as also of the revenues devoted to the fabrics of churches, and of other places, and likewise of all other ecclesiastical revenues and proceeds whatsoever, even those of other colleges;-in which, however, there are not actually seminaries of scholars, or of teachers, for promoting the common good of the Church; for the Synod wills that those places be exempted, except in regard of such revenues as may remain over and above the suitable support of the said seminaries;–or of bodies, or confraternities, which in some places are called schools, likewise of all monasteries, with the exception of the Mendicants; also of the tithes in any way belonging to laymen, out of which ecclesiastical subsidies are wont to be paid; and those belonging to the soldiers of any military body, or order, the brethren of Saint John of Jerusalem alone excepted; and they shall apply to, and incorporate with, the said college this portion so deducted, as also a certain number of simple benefices, of whatsoever quality and dignity they may be, or even prestimonies, or prestimonial portions as they are called, even before they fall vacant, without prejudice however to the divine service, or to those who hold them. And this shall have effect, even though the benefices be reserved or appropriated to other uses; nor shall this union and application of the said benefices be suspended, or in any way hindered, by any resignation thereof, but shall still in any case have effect, notwithstanding any way whatever in which they may be vacated, even be it in the Roman court, and notwithstanding any constitution whatsoever to the contrary.

The bishop of the place shall, by ecclesiastical censures, and other legal means, even by calling in for this purpose, if he think fit, the help of the Secular arm, compel the possessors of benefices, dignities, personates, and of all and singular the above-named (revenues), to pay this portion not merely on their own account, but also on account of whatsoever pensions they may happen to have to pay to others, out of the said revenues,-keeping back however a sum equivalent to that which they have to pay on account of those pensions: notwithstanding as regards all and singular the above-mentioned premises, any privileges, exemptions-even such as might require a special derogation-any custom, even immemorial, or any appeal, and allegation, which might hinder the execution hereof. But in case it should happen that, by means of the said unions being carried into effect, or from some other cause, the said seminary should be found to be wholly or in part endowed, then shall the portion, deducted as above from all benefices and incorporated by the bishop, be remitted, either wholly or in part, as the actual circumstances shall require. But if the prelates of cathedrals, and of the other greater churches, should be negligent in erecting the said seminary, and in preserving the same, and refuse to pay their share; it will be the duty of the archbishop sharply to reprove the bishop, and to compel him to comply with all the matters aforesaid, and of the provincial Synod to reprove and to compel in like manner the archbishop, and sedulously to provide that this holy and pious work be as soon as possible proceeded with, wherever it is possible. The bishop shall annually receive the accounts of the revenues of the said seminary, in the presence of two deputies from the Chapter, and of the same number deputed from the clergy of the city.

Furthermore, in order that the teaching in schools of this nature may be provided for at less expense, the holy Synod ordains, that bishops, archbishops, primates, and other Ordinaries of places, shall constrain and compel, even by the substraction of their fruits, those who possess any dignities as professors of theology, and all others to whom is attached the office of lecturing, or of teaching, to teach those who are to be educated in the said schools, personally, if they be competent, otherwise by competent substitutes to be chosen by themselves, and to be approved of by the Ordinary. And if, in the judgment of the bishop, those chosen are not fit, they shall noniminate another who is fit, without any appeal being allowed; but should they neglect to do this, the bishop himself shall depute one. And the aforesaid masters shall teach those things which the bishop shall judge expedient. And, henceforth, those offices, or dignities, which are called professorships of theology, shall not be conferred on any but doctors, or masters, or licentiates in divinity, or canon law, or on other competent persons, and such as can personally discharge that office; and any provision made otherwise shall be null and void: all privileges and customs whatsoever, even though immemorial, notwithstanding.

But if the churches in any province labour under so great poverty, as that a college cannot be established in certain (churches) thereof; the provincial Synod, or the metropolitan, aided by the two oldest suffragans, shall take care to establish one or more colleges, as shall be judged expedient, in the metropolitan, or in some other more convenient church of the province, out of the revenues of two or more churches, in which singly a college cannot conveniently be established, and there shall the youths of those churches be educated.

But in churches which have extensive dioceses, the bishop may have one or more seminaries in the diocese, as to him shall seem expedient; which seminaries shall however be entirely dependent in all things on the one erected and established in the (episcopal) city.

Finally, if, either upon occasion of the said unions, or the taxation, or assignment, and incorporation of the above-named portions, or from some other cause, there should happen to arise any difficulty, by reason of which the institution, or maintenance of the said seminary may be hindered or disturbed, the bishop with the deputies as above, or the provincial Synod according to the custom of the country, shall have power, regard being had to the character of the churches and benefices, to regulate and order all and singular the matters which shall seem necessary and expedient for the happy advancement of the said seminary, even so as to modify or enlarge, if need be, the contents hereof.

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