Irregularity is a technical term for the want of the necessary canonical qualifications for the acquisition and exercise of an ecclesiastical office. These requisite qualifications are set forth in canones or regule enacted from time to time by the Church for that purpose. It was based first on the apostolic examples given in 1Ti 3:1 sq.; 5:22; Tit 1:6 sq.; and, after the notion of the Levitical priesthood gained ground among the clergy, on the regulations of the O.T., which were explained in a mythical sense. The qualifications themselves can all be reduced to this, that the party ordained should not be in disrepute for crime, or in a state which would render him unfit for and incapable of ordination. Innocent III (in c. 14, X. De purgatione canonica [5, 33] an. 1207) distinguishes "nota delicti" and "nota defectus" as "impedienta ad sacros ordines promovendum;" and subsequent canonists have therefore divided the impediments in a like manner. In early times divers expressions were made use of to designate these impediments, but since Innocent III irregularitas has become the technical name of them in canon law (c. 33, X. De testibus [2, 20] an. 1203). SEE INCAPACITY.

The Greek Church in general adhered more to the principles which had been established during the first six centuries (see Canonses Apostolorum, Conc. Neocesar. an. 314, can. 9 [c. 11, dist. 34]; 'Concil. Niccen. eod. an., Trullianum, an. 692, can. 21), whilst the Evangelical Church has so far adopted also later regulations, which were in accordance with its general spirit. The formulas of confession and ecclesiastical discipline still continue, however, to refer expressly to the above-named passages of Scripture.

I. Irregularity on Account of a Crime. — The apostle demands that he who is to assume an office over the congregation should be unimpeached. Church discipline has gradually defined the offenses which compose irregularity. Originally it consisted of all offenses that necessitated public penance; after the 9th century, of such as were publicly known (delictum manifestum, notorium), and all faults entailing dishonor, in which the "infamibus portae non pateant dignitatum" of c. 87, De regalisjuris, was practically adhered to (comp. c. 2, Cod, Just. "de dignitatibus," 12:1, Constantin.). There are, besides, other offenses named by the law which, even though secret (delicta occulta), constitute irregularity, namely, heresy, apostasy, schism, simony, Anabaptism, subreption of the ordination, promotion without passing through the regular hierarchical degrees, ministration without consecration, performance of worship whilst under excommunication or interdict, disregard of the rule of celibacy, etc. (see Thomassin, Vetus et nova ecclesiae disciplina, pt. 2, lib. 1, cap. 56- 65; Ferraris, Bibliotheca canonica, s.v. Irregularitas, art. 1, No. 11; Ersch und Gruber, Encyklopadie, s.v. Ordination).

Whilst the Greek Church generally adhered to these regulations, the Evangelical Church naturally deviates from them in many particulars, in consequence of the absence of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, the abolition of the rule of celibacy, etc. That a person who has undergone punishment for crime is incapable of being ordained is self-evident. If a party is in bad repute, the congregation has a right to oppose his appointment, in case the imputations are well founded. This is a law among all Christian denominations.

The Romish Church suppresses the consequences of irregularity on account of crime by means of a dispensation which the bishops are empowered to give when the crime is not public, except in case of premeditated murder (Concilium Trident. Sess. 24, cap. 6, "De reform. verb.;" Sess. 14, cap. 7, "De reform."). In this case the dispensation can come only from the pope himself. So also for public offences, except he delegates special powers to the bishop for that purpose. In the Greek Church, on the contrary, the strict regulations of old are maintained, whereby irregularity for heavy offences cannot be removed (Thomassin, Vetus et nova eccles. disciplina, cap. lx, § 12),

II. Irregularity caused by Want of Qualification. Irregularity for offense constitutes also irregularity for want of sufficient qualification, as it entails the loss of good reputation (defectus fiamae); to this are, however, added other causes which are considered as defects. Among these are:

1. Defectus cetatis (want of the canonical age). — The age appointed for ordination has undergone various changes. According to the present canon law, the primary consecration of the Romish Church can be imparted in the seventh year; it is the tonsure (c. 4, De temporib. ord. in 6 [ 1, 9] Boniface VIII; Cone. Trid. Sess. 23, cap. 4, "De reform."). The age demanded for the other orders is: for subdeacons, the twenty-second; deacons, the twenty-third; presbyters, the twenty-fifth; bishops must be over thirty

(Conc. Trid. Sess. 23, cap. 12, "De reform."). Yet 'the pope can grant dispensations. In the Greek Church, the old rule demanding that deacons should be twenty years old when ordained, and presbyters thirty; is still retained (Nov. Justin. 137, cap. 1; Cone. Trullianum., can. 12). The evangelical churches generally require full majority, or twenty-five years; in some countries ordination is given at twenty-one. Dispensations are also granted under certain circumstances. The Church of England requires candidates to deacons' orders to be twenty-three, presbyters twenty-four, and bishops thirty.

2. Defectus natalium (legitimorum). — Illegitimacy was no obstacle to ordination in the ancient Church (c. 8, dist. 56, Hieronymus). It has been considered so since the 9th century; yet the rule was not very strictly enforced (Concil. Weldense, an. 845 [in cap. 17, can. 1, qu. 7]; Regino, De discipl. eccl. lib. 1, c. 416 sq.). Especial action was taken concerning the children of ordained priests (Concil. Pictaviense, an. 1078 [ c. 1, X. "De fillis presbyterorum ordinandisve non," 1, 17 ]; Claramontan. an. 1095 [comp. c. 14, dist. Ivi, Urban II), etc.'; see especially dist. 56, tit. 10:1, 17; lib. 6:1, 11; Cone. Trid. Sess. 25, cap. 15, "De reform."), and justified their laws by the passage of the O.T., De 23:2 (comp. c. 10, § 6, X. "De renunciat." 1, 9, Innocent III, an. 1206). This defect, however, can be remedied (a) by recognition (c. 6, X. "Qui filii sint legitimi," 4:17, Alexander III); (b) by entrance into a convent or foundation of regular canons (c. 11, dist. 56, Urban II; c. 1, 10. "De filiis presbyterorum," etc.). This regulation, abolished by Sixtus V, was restored by Gregory XVI in 1591, but with this condition, that such persons should be disabled from prelatical honors. (c) By dispensation; which, for ordines minores, and for majores when the defect is not publicly known, can be granted by the bishop; otherwise, for ordines majores, and benefits connected with cure of souls, the dispensation can be granted only by the pope (c. 1, "De filiis presbyterorum," in 6 [1, 11; comp. c. 20, 25, X. "De electione" [1, 6]). The Greek Church does not recognize this defect (Thomassin, cap. 81, § 4), neither does the evangelical Church, although many jurists consider the canonical principle on which it is based as common law (Wiese, Kirchenrecht, pt. 3, sec. 1, p. 160; Eichhorn, Deutsches Privatrecht, § 89; Kirchenrecht, 1, p. 704).

3. Delecius corporis. — In imitation of the Mosaic law (Le 21:17-20 sq.), it was at an early time demanded that the candidates for orders' should have no bodily blemishes such as might render them unfit for the duties of their office, or a subject of dislike to the people (Constif. Apost. lib. 7, cap. 2, 3; Canones Apostolorlum, cap. 76, 77). The Church became subsequently very strict on this point, and declared all bodily defects sufficient ground for irregularity (cap. 2, dist. 33; cap. 7, dist.. 34; c. I, dist. 36; c.,1, 3, dist. 55, etc.), but finally returned again to the former rules (tit. 10, "De corpor. vitiatis Cordinandis vel non," 1, 20). Thus ordination is refused to the deaf, dumb, and blind (Con. Apostol, 77, c. 6, X. "De clerico aegrotante vel debilitato," 3:6); also to those who have but one eye, especially if the one wanting is the left (oculus canonis), as in reading mass the Missal is placed on the left side (cap. 13, dist. 55), the lame (c. 10, dist. 55; c. 56, dist. 1, "De consecr."), epileptics (c. 1, 2, can. 7, qu. 2; c. 21, X. "De electione" is 6), lepers (c. 3, 4, X. "De clerico engrot." 3:6), those who had mutilated themselves (c. 21 sq; Apost. c. 7 sq., dist. 55), hermaphrodites (Ferraris, Bibliotheca canonica, s.v.). In some of these cases there can be dispensations granted, as, for instance, for the loss of the left eye, when the right has gained more strength so as to compensate for the defect (Ferraris, s.v. Irregularitas, art. 1, no. 12). The Greek Church has retained the original principle, and its application by the Evangelical Church appears fully justified..

4. De Jectus anime (want of spiritual capacity). — Thus madness, imbecility, etc., are grounds of irregularity (c. 2-5, dist. 33).

5. Defectus scientip (the want of adequate educational preparation). — In accordance with various passages of the O.T. (Jer 1:9; Ho 4:6; Mal 2:7, etc.), even the early Church demanded of its officers to have enjoyed special educational advantages, which alone-could qualify them to act as teachers of the people (comp. dist. 36-38, etc.), and the civil laws also insisted on this point (Novella, 5. 6, cap. 4, etc., Capitulares of Charlemagne; Rettberg, Kirchengesch. Deutschlands, vol. 2, § 124). With regard to the different orders special regulations were gradually adopted. The Council of Trent prescribes: "Prima tonsura non initientur, qui sacramentum confirmationis non susceperint et fidei rudimenta edocti non fuerint, quique legere et scribere nesziant. Minores ordines iis qui saltem Latinam linguam intelligant... conferantur. Subdiaconi et diaconi or- dinentur... in minoribus ordinibus jam probati, ac libris et iis quee ad ordinem exercendum pertinent instructi. Qui…ad ordinem presbyteratus assumuntur... ad populurr docenda ea, que scire omnibus necesse esf ad salutem, ac ministranda sacramenta diligenti examine precedente idonei comprobentur. Qui cunque posthac ad ecclesias cathedrales erit assumendus... antea in universitate studiorum magister sive doctor aut licentiatus in sacra theologia vel jure canonico merito sit promotus, aut publico alicujus academic testimonio idoneus ad alios docendos tendatur" (Concil. Trid. Sess. 23:cap. 4, 11, 13, 14, "De reform;" Sess. 22, cap. 2, "De reform."). No dispensations can be granted for this case; still the pope may direct that a party be ordained without possessing the necessary instruction, but should not act in the office until he has remedied this defect. Otherwise the party thus ordained is to be deposed (c. 15, X. "'De aetate" [1, 14]), The Evangelical Church has from the beginning attached much importance to the proper preparation and natural attainments of candidates. They are therefore generally subjected to examinations before ordination. SEE LICENTIATE; SEE MINISTRY; SEE THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION; and also the different articles on Christian denominations.

6. Defectus fidei (want of a well-grounded faith). — In consequence of the prescription of the apostle (1Ti 3:6; 1Ti 5:22) that no ῃσεσᾷρΤα should be ordained, the Church commanded that none should be ordained immediately after conversion (Canon. Apost. 79; Concil. Nicen. 325, c. 2 [c. 1, dist. 47]; Gregorius, anno 599 [c. 2, eod.]), and especially none who had been baptized in sickness (clinici) (Cone. Neocaesar. an. 314, c. 12 [c. 1, dist. 57]). Its original strictness-against the children and relatives of heretics was subsequently relaxed, and even the decrees concerning new converts fell into disuse where such showed that they possessed a firm faith (c. 7, X. "In fine de rescriptis" [1, 3]); Gonzalez Tellez, Comment. No. 7; Lancelot, Instit. jur. can. lib. 1, tit. 7:§ 12). It was, however, always the rule that no new convert could be raised at once to high offices (c. 1 sq., dist. 61), and this rule has been maintained in the Greek Church (Synod. 1 et 2, anno 861, c. 17). In the Evangelical Church it was also forbidden to raise any proselyte to office, but this is not generally adhered to in practice.

7. Defectus perfectae lenitatis (want of meekness). — It applies to those who have departed from the principle Ecclesia no sirit sancuinem. Hence, to those who have shed blood in war (Cone. Tolef. 1, anno 400, c. 8 [c. 4,' dist. 51].; Innocent I, anno 404 [c. 1, cod.]; c. 24, X. "De homicidio" [5, 12], Honorius III); also those who have sat as accuser, witness, lawyer, judge, or juryman in a criminal court, and taken part-in a sentence of death (Concil. Tolet. 4, anno 633, c. 31; Cone. Tolet. 11:anno 675, c. 6 [c. 29, 30, can. 23, qu. 8]; c. 5, 9, X. "Iu clerici vel monachi negotiis secularibus se immisceant," 3, 50; comp. c. 21, X. "De homicidio," 5. 12, etc., especially the glosses to c. 1, dist. 41, "Ad. 5. sacerdotium"); also all who had practiced surgery, in so far as cutting and cauterizing were concerned (quae ad ustionem vel incisiolen inducit) (c. 9, X. cit. 3:50).

8. Defectus sacramenti (marimonii) (want of adherence to the rule of monogamy). — The apostolic command about the bishops and deacons being the husbands of one wife (1Ti 3:2,12; Tit 1:6) was by the Church considered as forbidding not only actual bigamy (bigamia vera sen simultanea), but also second marriage (bigamia successiva) (dist. 26; c. 1, 2, dist. 33, tit. 10:"De bigamis non ordinandis," 1, 21, etc.). The idea of bigamy was subsequently extended to include marriage with a widow or a deflowered virgin (bigamia intepretativa) (c. 2, dist. 33; c. 10, 13, dist. 34; c. 8. dist. 1; c. 10, § 6, X. "De renunciatione," 1, 9; c. 33, X. "De testibus," 2, 20; c. 4, 5, 7, X. "De bigamis non ord." 1, 21; Novella Justiniani, 6, cap. I, § 3; cap. 5, 123; cap. 12); also the continuation of the marriage relation after a woman had committed adultery (c. 11, 12, dist. 34). Finally, it was considered bigamy for those who, by a vow of chastity, had been joined in spiritual marriage to the Church, like monks, or who had attained high ecclesiastical positions, to marry even a virgin (bigamia similitudinaria) (c. 24, can. 27m qu. 1 [Conc. Ancyr. an. 314]). In this case the irregularity results non propter sacramenti defectum. sed propter affectum intentionis cum opere subsecuto, as Innocent III expressly declares (c. 4 and 7. X. "De bigamis non ord."). This constitutes a real offense, for which, however, the bishop can give a dispensation (c. 4, X. "De clericis conjugatis," 4:3; c. 1, X. "Qui clerici vel voventes matrim. contrahere possunt," 4, 6). In cases of real bigamy, the dispensation is granted by the pope himself for higher, and by the bishop for minor orders (see glosses on c. 17, dist. 34, and on c. 2. X. "De bigamis non ord."). The Greek Church follows the same principles, whilst the Evangelical Church thinks there is nothing reprehensible in repeated marriages, even with widows (see Ro 7:2-3; 1Co 7:39).

9. Defectus famae (a bad reputation). — On the many cases of this kind which may produce irregularity, but are distinguished from those in which irregularity results from a misdeed, see Ferraris, Bibliotheca canonica, s.v. Irregularitas, art. 1, no: 12, a; E. Phillips, Kirchenrecht, vol. 1, c. 53.

10. Defectus libertatis (want of liberty). — No one who is not perfectly free to dispose of himself can be ordained until consent has been given to it by the party on whom he depends. Thus slaves require the assent of their master (Canones Apostolorum, c. 82; c. 1, 2, 4 sq., 12, 21, dist. 54; c. 37, can. 17, qu. 4, tit. 10:"De servis non ordinandis," 1, 18). But on being ordained with the consent of their master they become free; when they are ordained without his consent he can reclaim them within one year (Novella Justiniani, 123, cap. 17, "Auth. si servus" [c. 37, Cod. de episcopis et clericis, 1, 3]). Yet we find among the clergy of the Middle Ages some who remained in the dependence of their former masters after their ordination, though with some restrictions (see Ftrth, Die Ministerialen, Cologne, 1836, § 272, p. 462-465). Those who are liable to civil or military duties are to free themselves from such obligations before ordination (Cod. Theodos. tit. "De decurionibus," 12:1; c. 12, 53, Cod. Justin. "De episcopis et clericis," 1, 3; Noella, 123, cap. 1, pr. § 1; cap. 15. "Auth. sed neque curialem" [Cod. de episcopis et clericis, 1, 3]; c. 1-3, dist. 51; c. 3, can. 23, qu. 6, etc.). Those who have accounts to settle are to do so before being ordained (Conc. Carthag. anno 348, c. 8; and c. 3, dist. 54, cap. un. X. "De obligatis ad ratiocinia ordinandis vel non," 1, 19; c. 1, disit. lv [Gelasius, 494]; c. 1, dist. 53 [Gregor. 1, 598]). Those who are married require the consent of their wife, who is then to take the vow of chastity or to enter a convent (c. 6, dist. 38 [Concil. Arelat. 2, 461?]; c. 8, X. "De clericis conjugatio" [3, 3], Innocent III, an. 1207; comp. c. 5, 8, X. "De conversione conjugatorum" [3, 32], Alex. III; c. 4, "De tempore ordinat." in 6 [1, 9], Boniface VIII). According to Greek canon law the presbyter may be married; and it is only in case he should be made bishop that his wife is obliged to enter a convent (Cone. Trullian. an. 692, c. 48). Children need the consent of their parents until they have reached the age of puberty (fixed at 14) (c. I, can. 20, qu. 2; c. 5, dist. 28). See Thomassin, Vetus et nova ecclesice ,7, 1, 7. part 2. lib. 1. cap. 12-92, Phillips, Kirchenrecht, vol. 1, § 46-53. — Herzog, Real Encyklopadie, 7:67 sq. 7. (J. N. P.)

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