Patronage Ecclesiastical

Patronage Ecclesiastical, is a term for the right of presenting a fit person to a vacant ecclesiastical benefice. SEE PATRON. In the early period of Christianity's successes the countries where the new religion had been adopted were parceled out into large districts or dioceses, under the superintendence of a bishop, who usually resided in the neighborhood of one of the religious houses. Within such district the bishop had the nomination of the priests, who supplied religious instruction to the people. The priests were paid out of the episcopal treasury, and traveled about in the exercise of their duties, having their residence with the bishop, and forming that episcopi clerus which constituted the notion of cathedral churches and monasteries in their simplest form. Occasionally a bishop .endowed a church in his diocese, and attached a priest permanently to it; and in Gaul, in the 5th century, a bishop who founded a church in a neighboring diocese was allowed to appoint an incumbent of his choice. As Christianity became more universal, and the population increased, the means of worship supplied by the bishoprics, the monasteries, and occasional episcopally endowed churches, became inadequate for the demands of the people, and the proprietors of lands began to build and endow churches in their own possessions. In such cases the chaplain or priest was not paid by the bishop, but was allowed to receive for his maintenance, and for the use of his church, the whole or a part of the profits of the lands with which the founder had endowed it, and the offerings of those who frequented the church for worship. A district was defined by the founder, within which the functions of the officiating priest were to be exercised; and both the burden and the advantages of his ministry were limited to the inhabitants of that district. As these pious foundations tended both to the advancement of religion and to the relief of the episcopal treasury, they were encouraged by the bishops, who readily consecrated the churches thus established, and consented that the incumbent should be resident at the church, and receive the tithes and offerings of the inhabitants and what endowment the founder had annexed to the church. Eventually it came also to be stipulated with the bishop that the founder and his heirs should have a share in the administration of the property, and have the right to nominate a person in holy orders to be the officiating minister whenever a vacancy occurred. It also became a not unusual arrangement that when owners of estates rebuilt such churches as were dependent on the cathedral, or undertook to pay the incumbent, to the relief of the cathedral, the right of presentation was transferred from the bishop to these persons, who thenceforward stood in the same relation to these churches as if they had been the original founders. Out of these private endowments arose the parochial divisions of a later time, which thus owe their origin rather to accidental and private dotation than to any legislative scheme for the ecclesiastical subdivision of the country. The bounds of a parish (q.v.) were at first generally commensurate with those of a manor, and the lord of the manor was the hereditary patron. The person enjoying the privileges of a founder was called patronus and advocatus. He had a pre-eminent seat and a burial-place in the church; he enjoyed a precedence among the clergy in processions; his name and arms were engraved on the church and on the church bells, and he was specially named in the public prayers. He had the right to a certain portion of the Church funds, called patronagium, and enjoyed the fruits of the benefice during a vacancy. In the course of time it sometimes happened that, with the concurrence of all parties interested, the patronage, and the church with its revenues and appurtenances, were made over to a religious house, which thus became both patron and perpetual incumbent of the parish, while the immediate duties of the cure were devolved on a vicar or stipendiary curate. In France the right of patronage was often extended to churches not originally private foundations by the necessities of the sovereigns, which led them to take possession of Church property, and bestow it in fee on laymen, who appropriated the greater part of the revenues, and took the appointment of the clergy into their own hands. For a length of time not merely the nomination but the investiture of the clergy came to be exercised by lay patrons, a state of things which roused the indignation of successive popes and councils; until it was at last ruled by the third and fourth Lateran councils (A.D. 1179 and 1215) that the presentation of the patron should not of itself suffice to confer any ecclesiastical benefice, even when qualified by the discretionary power of rejection given to the bishop, when the presentee was a layman. It was declared necessary that the presentee should not merely have the temporalities of the benefice conferred on him by induction, but also be invested with the spiritualities by institution. When the bishop was patron of the benefice, the ceremonies of induction and institution were united in that of collation.

With the growth of the papal power, however, a practice arose by which the right of presentation or induction, which had nominally been left to the patrons, became in some degree nugatory. Towards the close of the 12th century, letters of request, called mandates or expectatives, began to be issued by the popes to patrons, praying that benefices should be bestowed on particular persons. What had at first been requested as a favor was soon demanded as a right, and a code of rules was laid down with regard to grants and revocations of expectatives. In the 13th century the patronage of all livings whose incumbents had died at the court of Rome (vacantia in curia) was claimed by the pope; and as ecclesiastics of all ranks from every part of Europe frequently visited Rome, the number of benefices vacantia in curia was always very great. Clement V went so far as broadly to declare that the pope possessed the full and free disposal of all ecclesiastical benefices. The practice next arose of the pope making reversionary grants, called provisions of benefices, during the lifetime of the incumbent, and reserving what benefices he thought fit for his private patronage. By means of permissions to hold benefices in commendam, and dispensations for nonresidence and holding of pluralities, upwards of fifty benefices were often held by one person; and throughout all Europe the principal benefices were filled by Italian priests, nominees of the popes, who were often ignorant even of the language of the people among whom they ministered. In the 14th century these claims encountered much opposition. England took the lead in an organized resistance, which was in the end successful. A series of English statutes was passed, beginning with the Statute of Provisors, 25 Edw. III, c. 6, solemnly vindicating the rights of ecclesiastical patronage, and subjecting to severe penalties, SEE PREMUNIRE, all persons who should attempt to enforce the authority of papal provisions in England. The principles adopted by the third and fourth Lateran councils have since been substantially the law of patronage in Roman Catholic countries. A lay patron is, by the canon law, bound to exercise his right of presentation within four, and an ecclesiastical patron within six months, failing which the right to present accrues jure de voluto to the bishop of the diocese. Patronage has always been more or less subject to alienation, transmission, and the changes incident to other kinds of property. The modern practice of patronage in the Roman Catholic Church is detailed under the head PROVISION.

In England, where the modified canon law, which was in use before the Reformation, is still in force, the rights of patrons do not materially differ from those which they possess in Roman Catholic countries. When, in the reign of Henry VIII, the monasteries were abolished and their Church property confiscated, it passed into the hands of the friends 'and supporters of the king, and so has descended to laymen to the present time. Thus in England the lay patrons were greatly increased in number, and in many cases the tithes and other income which before belonged to the Church. and went to the support of its incumbent, passed directly into the hands of laymen. At the present time there is no common law governing the various parishes, but the financial government of each one depends largely upon its historical foundation. In some cases the patron has simply the right to present a candidate for the office of parson, who, when appointed, receives all the income of the parish, and who in such case is called rector (q.v.). In some cases a portion of the income belongs to the patron, while a portion is set apart to the incumbent, who in that case is called a vicar (q.v.). In some cases the incumbent is dependent on the will of the patron for his salary, in which case he is called curate (q.v.). The ecclesiastical living or preferment is called a benefice (q.v.), and the patron's right of presentation an advowson (q.v.). There has been of late years some earnest agitation in the Church of England to get rid of patronage altogether; and the evils of a system which places the appointment of the clergy in the hands of laymen, who are often indifferent to the spiritual interests of the Church, are conceded by all parties. But the vested rights are so immense, and the system is so incorporated into the whole organization of the Established Church, that for the abuses of patronage no adequate remedy has yet been discovered; and it is hardly too much to say that there is no radical remedy except in the abolition of the Church Establishment, and the substitution of the voluntary system of Church support as maintained in the United States. In order to prevent the transfer of patronage from the laity to the episcopal dignitaries of the Church of England, some of its laity formed themselves in 1875 into an association called "The Church Private Patronage Association," the object of which is to counteract by every available means the invasion of the immemorial rights of private patrons, and the consequent monopoly, in case of its success, tending to deter independent clergymen from entering the service of the Established Church. It is a special object of the association to disabuse the public mind of many errors on the subject, fostered by much ignorance and prejudice, to correct prevailing fallacies as to the nature of simony, to show the obvious distinction between a spiritual office and a temporal qualification required for its exercise, and to make it clear that the unfettered transfer of benefices, under certain approved regulations, is the most likely means to improve the quality of the clerical profession, and to add increased stability to the Established Church of England.

In Scotland, at the Reformation, the rights of patrons were reserved, and presbyteries were bound by several statutes to admit any qualified person presented by the patron. The principle of these statutes was retained in the enactments introducing Episcopacy. On the establishment of Presbyterianism under favor of the civil war, patronage was abolished by act 1649, c. 23, and the election of the clergy was committed to the kirk- session. At the Restoration this statute fell under the act rescissory, and patronage was replaced on its former footing. On the reintroduction of Presbyterianism at the Revolution, patronage was again canceled, and the right to present conferred on the Protestant heritors and the elders of the parish, subject to the approval or rejection of the whole congregation. In consideration of being deprived of the right of presentation, patrons were to receive from the parish a compensation of 600 merks (£33 6s. sterling), on payment of which they were to execute a formal renunciation of their rights. Only three parishes effected this arrangement with the patron, and patronage was permanently restored in all the parishes where no renunciation had been granted, by 10 Anne, c. 12. This act, with modifications introduced by 6 and 7 Vict. c. 61, is now law. Should a patron fail to present for six months after the occurrence of a vacancy, the right to present falls to the presbytery jure de volzto. The presentee, before he acquires a right to the emolumnents of the benefice, must be admitted to it by the presbytery of the bounds. He is first appointed to preach certain trial sermons, after which a day is fixed within six weeks for moderating in his call. On that day the people are invited to sign a written call to the presentee to be their minister, and however few the signatures to the call may be, the presbytery are accustomed to pronounce a formal judgment sustaining it. They then proceed to examine into the qualifications of the presentee, and, provided the result be satisfactory, the ordination follows (if he have not been previously ordained), and he is formally admitted minister of the parish by the presiding minister. Soon after the above- mentioned act of queen Anne, a feeling which had sprung up in favor of popular election, in opposition to patronage, led to various acts of resistance to the settlement of presentees, and brought about two considerable secessions from the Church of Scotland. It continued for a length of time to be a subject of dispute how far the right of the Church to judge of the fitness of presentees could entitle her to make rules tending to disqualify them, and in particular whether she could legally make the dissatisfaction of the congregation a disqualification. For a long time prior to 1834 there had been no attempt to give effect to any dissent on the part of the congregation. In that year the law of patronage again became a ground of contention, when a majority of the General Assembly embodied their views on the subject in the so-called Veto Act, which declared that no minister was to be imposed on a congregation when a majority of heads of families and communicants should dissent from his admission. The decision of the Court of Session, confirmed any the House of Lords, making this act to be ultra vires of the General Assembly, provoked the secession of 1843 and the formation of the Free Church (q.v.). After that event an act, 6 and 7 Vict. c. 71, commonly called Lord Aberdeen's Act, was passed to fix by a legislative provision the effect which the Church courts were in future to be entitled to give to the dissent of the congregation in the collation of ministers. It is there enacted that after the trial sermons the presbytery shall give to the parishioners, being members of the congregation, an opportunity to state objections which do not infer matter of charge to be proceeded against according to the discipline of the Church. The presbytery are either to dispose of the objections, or to refer them to the superior Church judicatory; and if the objections be considered well founded, the presbytery may reject the presentee. No power is, however, given to reject him on the ground of mere dislike as such on the part of any portion of the congregation. In Scotland, patronage is in all cases a heritable right; it is transferable by disposition without enfeudation, but is capable of being feudalized, after which it can be completely conveyed only by infeudation.

In the Protestant churches of Germany, Sweden, and Denmark, patronage exists to some extent, subject to restrictions, which differ much in different localities. The right to present is sometimes divided between the patron and the consistory. The parishioners have in many instances a voice: the appointment may be entirely in their hands, or they may have merely a right to reject the presentee after he has been subjected to the ordeal of a trial sermon; and in either case this right may be exercised, according to local usage, either by the parishioners at large, by a committee of their number. or by the Burgermeister. When there is no patron, the choice generally rests with the consistory in East, and with the parishioners in West Germany. Induction by the superintendent completes the right of the presentee.

In the Greek Church the right to present is generally in the, hands of the bishops, excepting in Russia, where lay patronage exists to a limited extent. Chambers, Cyclop. s.v. See Lippert, Versuch einer historisch- dognmaischen En-twickelung derLehre vom Patronat (Giessen, 1819); Hinschius, Das Kirchenrecht der Katholiken u. Protestanten (Berl. 1870); Brit. Qu. Rev. Oct. 1874, art. 6 (on England); Eadie, Eccles. Dict. s.v. (on Scotland); Gardner, Faiths of the World, 2:633 sq.; Alzog, Kirchengesch. 1:335, 502 (on Roman Cath. Ch.); Riddle, Christian Antiquities, and Bingham, Origines Ecclesiasticae (Patristic period).

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