(1.) an assembly, or gathering together of persons, more particularly for divine service. This word is used, in the Rubrics of the Church of England, in the same sense as "people" is used, to mean that portion of the Church of the nation who are assembled in any one sacred edifice for the purposes of worship (Eden).
(2.) Monastic Congregations. —
(a) In a wider sense, all ecclesiastical associations of laymen in the Roman Catholic Church, for contemplative, ascetic, or practical purposes, are called congregations.
(b) In a more special sense, ecclesiastical congregations are associations which, like monastic orders, lead a common life, and are bound by vows. They differ from the monastic orders by not demanding from their members the vow of poverty, by binding them to less stringent or to no rules of retirement from the world, and frequently by prescribing only the simple vow of chastity, SEE VOW. The number of congregations of this class is very large; among them are the Oratorians, the Priests of the Mission, the Doctrinarians, the Piarists, the Brothers of the Christian Schools, the Mechitarists, Redemptorists, all of which are treated of in special articles.
(c) The name is also applied to several branches of reformed Benedictines. In these "congregations" each monastery has its own abbot or prior, but all were subordinate to the head of the chief abbey. The most noted of these congregations were those of Clugny, Vallambrosa, Camaldoli, the Cistercians, Carthusians, and Maurines (see these articles).
(3.) In OEcumenical Synods. — At the OEcumenical Synod of Constance, it was resolved to take the vote, not by heads, but by nations, of which there were at first four (German, French, Italian, English), and subsequently five (Spanish). Each nation was to cast one vote. In order to establish the vote of a nation, its members held separate sessions, which were called "congregations." In these congregations, every member, without distinction of rank, had an equal vote. When the vote of each congregation had been established, all the congregations met as a general
congregation, and the resolutions, for which a majority of the nation voted, were declared the Resolutions of the OEcumenical Council. See Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 2:794.
(4.) Congregation of Cardinals. — A committee of cardinals, prelates, and others, met for the dispatch of some particular business, and deriving its name from the particular business it has to dispatch. The following account will be found to include the names of the chief of these congregations, and the particular business of each:
1. The Consistorial Congregation, instituted in 1586; by Sixtus V. They prepare the most difficult beneficiary matters, afterwards debated in the Consistory in the presence of the pope. Such matters are the approbation of new religious orders; the erection of new episcopal sees; the separation, union, or suppression of benefices of the higher grade; the examination of newly-appointed or elected bishops; the appointment of coadjutors. The number of cardinals is not fixed.
2. The Congregation of the Holy Office, or Inquisition, instituted in 1542 by Paul III, at the desire of cardinal Caraffa, who afterwards became Paul IV. The privileges were enlarged by the addition of statutes by Sixtus V, by which this tribunal became so formidable that the Italians were accustomed to say, "Pope Sixtus would not pardon Christ himself." It takes cognizance of heresies and all novel opinions, as well as of apostasy, magic, witchcraft, abuse of the sacraments, and the circulation of pernicious books. The pope himself is prefect of this congregation. It consists of 12 cardinals, a number of theologians and canonists as "consultors," of several "qualificators" who give their opinion in special cases, of a defender of the accused, and several other persons. SEE INQUISITION.
3. The Congregation de Propaganda Fide, instituted by Gregory XV in 1622, consists of 24 cardinals, one of the secretaries of state, an apostolical prothonotary, a referendary, an assistant or lateral judge, and the secretary of the Holy Office. SEE PROPAGANDA.
4. The Congregation of the Council, for explaining the Council of Trent. When the council closed its sessions, Pius IV deputed certain cardinals, who had assisted in it, to put an end to all doubts which might arise concerning its decrees. This congregation meets once a week. "Its decisions from 1739 to 1843 fill 103 vols. 4to." The prefect is chosen by the pope, and has a salary.
5. The Congregation of the Index, instituted in 1570 by Pius V. This committee is deputed to examine all books. It is composed of several cardinals, and has a secretary of the order of Dominic. The pope generally presides himself.
6. The Congregation of Ecclesiastical Immunity. This was established by Urban VIII in order to obviate the disputes which arose in the judgment of such suits as were carried on against churchmen for various matters, whether criminal or civil.
7. The Congregation of Bishops and Regulars. Sixtus V, in the beginning of his pontificate, united two congregations under this name. It has power to regulate all disputes arising between bishops and regular or monastic orders.
8. The Congregaton for the Election, Examination, and Residence of Bishops. This was instituted by Clement VIII, to examine into the qualifications of all such churchmen as are nominated to bishoprics. The examiners are chosen by the pope. It has the power of enjoining or dispensing with the residence of bishops, and obliging all abbots to reside in their several communities.
9. The Congregation of Religious Discipline. This has the right to inquire into the state of Italian-monasteries, and to suppress those whose temporalities are so far diminished that the remainder is not sufficient for the maintenance of six monks.
10. The Congregation of Apostolical Visitation. Its business is to visit, in the name of the pope, the six bishoprics, suffragans to the metropolis of Rome.
11. The Congregation of Indulgences and Sacred Relics, instituted in 1689 by Clement IX. Its business is to superintend the relics of ancient martyrs, which are frequently said to be found in catacombs and other subterranean places in Rome, and to distinguish their bones, shrines, and tombs from those of the heathen. After the congregation has pronounced sentence on the validity of any relics, they are consigned to the cardinal-vicar and the pope's sacristan, who distribute them to applicants. This congregation also investigates the causes and motives of those who sue for indulgences. The registrar sends the minutes and conclusions of petitions to the secretary of briefs, who dispatches them under the fisherman's seal.
12. The Congregation of Sacred Rites. Sixtus V founded this congregation to regulate all matters relating to ceremonies and rites in worship, and especially to take the chief part in the canonization of saints. It has authority to explain the rubrics of the Mass-Book and the Breviary when any difficulties are started in relation thereto.
13. The Congregation of the Reverend Fabric of St. Peter. This was founded to superintend the building of St. Peter's, and is now employed in repairing and beautifying it. This congregation has the peculiar privilege of altering the last wills of those who bequeath money to pious uses, and to apply it to the support of the fabric of St. Peter's.
14. The Congregation of the Sacred Consulta. This has supreme civil and criminal jurisdiction over the subjects of the papal states. It was instituted by that famous founder of congregations, Sixtus V.
15. The Congregation of Good Government. This watches over the conduct of the magistrates throughout the states, and works in concert with the Consulta.
16. The Congregation of Prisons. This consists of the governor of the city, and other ecclesiastics bearing civic and judiciary offices. They dispose of cases relating to the numerous occupants of secret prisons, galleys, etc., etc., having under their jurisdiction all that are in legal bonds; the sufferers in the Inquisition and in the monasteries excepted, whom it is not within their province to visit, pity, or release. — Farrar, Eccl. Dict. s.v.; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 2:577; Broughton, Bibliotheca Historico-Sacra (London, 1737, vol. 1); Meier, Die heutige romische Curie in Jacobson, Zeitschrift f. d. Recht, 1847, 2; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 2:344.