Arbitrators, Ecclesiastical

Arbitrators, Ecclesiastical At an early period in the history of the Christian Church, bishops came to be invested by custom and the laws of the State with the office of hearing and determining. secular causes submitted to them by their people. From the natural' respect with which the pastors were regarded, they were considered to be the best arbitratomrs and the most impartial judges of the common disputes which occurred in their neighborhood. 'The office thus assigned by custom to the bishops or pastors of the Church was afterwards confirmed and established by law when the emperors became Christian. Eusebius says, in his life of Constantine, that a law was passed by that emperor confirming such decisions of the bishops in their consistories, and that no secular judges should have any power to reverse or annul them, inasmuch as the priests of God were to be preferred before another judges. By the Justinian Code the arbitration of bishops was restricted to causes purely civil, and it was further decreed that they should only have power to judge when both parties agreed by consent to refer their causes to their arbitration. In criminal causes the clergy were prohibited from acting as judges, both by the canons of the Church and the laws of the State,: except such as incurred ecclesiastical censure. Sometimes they found it necessary to call in the assistance of one of the clergy, a presbyter, or principal deacon. Accordingly, the Council of Tarragona mentions not only presbyters, but deacons also who were deputed to hear secular causes. 'The office of arbitrator was sometimes committed to intelligent and trustworthy laymen, and from this practice the office of lay chancellor (q.v.) may have had its origin.,

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