Procedure, Ecclesiastical

Procedure, Ecclesiastical or the rules to be followed in the Church of Rome in disciplinary actions. They owe their regulation to pope Innocent III. Previous to his time, it is true, the official vindication had assumed a more definite form in the synodal jurisdiction of the archdeacon. But he perfected them, and there are now in the Romish Church five kinds of penal procedures in use: the trial may be instituted in consequence of accusation, inquisition, denunciation, exception, and on account of notoriety. The first and last had existed at a much earlier period. There was no need of a formal accusation in the case of notorious transgressions, and the bishop punished them in virtue of his office; of course, after the matter had been sufficiently proved and avowed. The proceedings were of a more formal kind when there was an accusation. Here the proceedings of the Roman law were taken for models. The inquisition or official examination took place when an ecclesiastic was accused of a transgression by a public and plausible rumor, which acted, as it were, as accusator. To complete the official examination, the judge could, if he thought fit, exact the oath of purgation (purgatio canonica). The former custom of purgation by ordeals now came into disuse. If a plausible denunciation was made, an official examination must take place. If the fault was avowed, the penalty was only the imposition of a penance. Cases of exception were those where a man who was on the point of appearing as a witness or accuser, or a person who applied for ordination or for an ecclesiastical office, was stopped by an accusation, which, if proved, unfitted him for bearing witness or office. This was also an occasion for canonical purgation. In these cases punishment was out of the question, and there could only follow an exclusion from the witness- stand, from the right to accuse, from the orders or the function in question. In those parts where the Church is still possessed of a penal jurisdiction, she has to conform to the laws and customs which regulate the penal procedure of the country. See Biener, Beit. zur Gesch. des Inquisitions- processes (Leips. 1827); Hildenbrand, Die Purgatio Canonica und Civilis (Munich, 1841); Walter, Kirchelnrecht, § 200; Richter, Kirchenrecht, § 211. — Aschbach, Kirchen-Lex . s.v

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