The Council of Trent
The Fifth Session

The canons and decrees of the sacred
and oecumenical Council of Trent
Trans. J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848), 24-29.

Hanover Historical Texts Project
Scanned by Hanover College students in 1995.
The page numbers of Waterworth's translation appear in brackets.

[Page 24]



On the Institution of a Lectureship of Sacred Scripture, and of the liberal arts.

The same sacred and holy Synod, adhering to the pious constitutions of the Sovereign Pontiffs, and of approved councils, and embracing and adding to them; that the heavenly treasure of the sacred books, which the Holy Ghost has with the greatest liberality delivered unto men, may not lie neglected, hath or-[Page 25]dained and decreed, that,--in those churches where there is found to be a prebend, prestimony, or other stipend under whatsoever name, destined for lecturers in sacred theology,--the bishops, archbishops, primates, and other Ordinaries of those places shall force and compel, even by the substraction of the fruits, those who hold such prebend, prestimony, or stipend, to expound and interpret the said sacred Scripture, either personally, if they be competent, or otherwise by a competent substitute, to be chosen by the said bishops, archbishops, primates, and other Ordinaries of those places. But, for the future, let not such prebend, prestimony, or stipend be bestowed save on competent persons, and those who can themselves discharge that office; and otherwise let the provision made be null and void.

But in metropolitan, or cathedral churches, if the city be distinguished and populous,--and also in collegiate churches which are in any large town, even though they may not belong to any diocese, provided the clergy be numerous there,--wherein there is no such prebend, prestimony, or stipend set aside for this purpose, let the first prebend that shall become vacant in any way soever, except by resignation, and to which some other incompatible duty is not attached, be understood to be ipso facto set apart and devoted to that purpose for ever. And in case that in the said churches there should not be any, or not any sufficient, prebend, let the metropolitan, or the bishop himself, by assigning thereunto the fruits of some simple benefice,--the obligations thereto belonging being nevertheless discharged,--or by the contributions of the beneficiaries of his city and diocese, or otherwise, as may be most convenient, provide in such wise, with the advice of his chapter, as that the said lecture of sacred Scripture be had; yet so that whatsoever other lectures there may be, whether established by custom, or in any other way, be not by any means therefore omitted.

As to churches, whose annual revenues are slight, and where the number of the clergy and laity is so small, that a lectureship of Theology cannot be conveniently had therein, let them at least have a master--to be chosen by the bishop, with the advice of the chapter--to teach grammar gratuitously to clerics, and other poor scholars, that so they may afterwards, with God's blessing, [Page 26] pass on to the said study of sacred Scripture. And for this end, either let the fruits of some simple benefice be assigned to that master of grammar,--which fruits he shall receive so long as he continues teaching, provided however, that the said benefice be not deprived of the duty due to it,--or let some suitable remuneration be paid him out of the episcopal or capitular revenue; or in fine let the bishop himself devise some other method suited to his church and diocese; that so this pious, useful, and profitable provision may not be, under any colourable pretext whatever, neglected.

In the monasteries also of monks, let there be in like manner a lecture on sacred Scripture, where this can be conveniently done: wherein of the abbots be negligent, let the bishops of the places, as the delegates herein of the Apostolic See, compel them thereto by suitable remedies. And in the convents of other Regulars, in which studies can conveniently flourish, let there be in like manner a lectureship of sacred Scripture; which lectureship shall be assigned, by the general or provincial chapters, to the more able masters.

In the public colleges also, wherein a lectureship so honourable, and the most necessary of all, has not hitherto been instituted, let it be established by the piety and charity of the most religious princes and governments, for the defence and increase of the Catholic faith, and the preservation and propagation of sound doctrine; and where such lectureship, after being once instituted, has been neglected, let it be restored. And that impiety may not be disseminated under the semblance of piety, the same holy Synod ordains, that no one be admitted to this office of lecturing, whether in public or in private, without having been previously examined and approved of by the bishop of the place, as to his life, conversation, and knowledge: which however is not to be understood of lecturers in convents of monks. Furthermore, those who are teaching the said sacred Scripture, as long as they teach publicly in the schools, as also the scholars who are studying in those schools, shall fully enjoy [Page 27] and possess, though absent, all the privileges accorded by common law, as regards the reception of the fruits of their prebends and benefices.


On Preachers of the word of God, and on Questors of alms.

But seeing that the preaching of the Gospel is no less necessary to the Christian commonwealth than the reading thereof; and whereas this is the principal duty of bishops; the same holy Synod hath resolved and decreed, that all bishops, archbishops, primates, and all other prelates of the churches be bound personally--if they be not lawfully hindered--to preach the holy Gospel of Jesus Christ. But if it should happen that bishops, and the others aforesaid, be hindered by any lawful impediment, they shall be bound, in accordance with the form prescribed by the general Council (of Lateran), to appoint fit persons to discharge wholesomely this office of preaching. But if any one through contempt do not execute this, let him be subjected to rigorous punishment.

Archpriests, curates, and all those who in any manner soever hold any parochial, or other, churches, which have the cure of souls, shall, at least on the Lord's days, and solemn feasts, either personally, or if they be lawfully hindered, by others who are competent, feed the people committed to them, with wholesome words, according to their own capacity, and that of their people; by teaching them the things which it is necessary for all to knew unto salvation, and by announcing to them with briefness and plainness of discourse, the vices which they must avoid, and the virtues which they must follow after, that they may escape everlasting punishment, and obtain the glory of heaven. And if any one of the above neglect to discharge this duty,--even though he may plead, on whatsoever ground, that he [Page 28] is exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop, and even though the churches may be, in whatsoever way, said to be exempted, or haply annexed or united to a monastery that is even out of the diocese,--let not the watchful pastoral solicitude of the bishops be wanting, provided those churches be really within their diocese; lest that word be fulfilled; The little ones have asked for bread, and there was none to break it unto them. Wherefore, if, after having been admonished by the bishop, they shall neglect this their duty for the space of three months, let them be compelled by ecclesiastical censures, or otherwise, at the discretion of the said bishop; in such wise that even-if this seem to him expedient-a fair remuneration be paid, out of the fruits of the benefices, to some other person to discharge that office, until the principal himself repenting shall fulfil his own duty.

But should there be found to be any parochial churches, subject to monasteries which are not in any diocese, if the abbots and Regular prelates be negligent in the matters aforesaid, let them be compelled thereto by the metropolitans, in whose provinces the said dioceses are situated, as the delegate for that end of the Apostolic See; nor let custom, or exemption, or appeal, or reclamation, or action of recovery be of effect to impede the execution of this decree; until by a competent judge,--who shall proceed summarily, and examine only into the truth of the (matter of) fact,--the case shall have been taken cognizance of, and decided.

Regulars, of whatsoever order they may be, may not preach even in the churches of their own orders, unless they have been examined and approved of as regards their life, manners, and knowledge, by their own superiors, and with his license; with which license they shall be bound to present themselves personally before the bishops, and beg a blessing from them, before they begin to preach. But, (to preach) in churches which are not those of their own orders, besides the license of their own superiors they shall be obliged to have also the license of the bishop, without which they may not on any account preach in the said churches which belong not to their own orders: but bishops shall grant [Page 29] the said license gratuitously.

But if, which God forbid, a preacher should spread errors, or scandals, amongst the people, let the bishop interdict his preaching, even though he preach in a monastery of his own, or of another, order: whereas, if he preach heresies, let him proceed against him according to the appointment of the law, or the custom of the place, even though the said preacher should plead that he is exempted by a general, or special, privilege: in which case the bishop shall proceed by apostolic authority, and as the delegate of the Apostolic See. But let bishops be careful, that a preacher be not annoyed, either by false accusations, or in any other way calumniously; or have any just cause of complaint against them.

Furthermore, let bishops be on their guard not to permit any one,--whether of those, who, being Regulars in name, live nevertheless out of their monasteries, and the obedience of their religious institute, or secular priests, unless they be known to them, and are of approved morals and doctrine,--to preach in their own city, and diocese, even under the pretext of any privilege whatsoever; until the holy Apostolic See has been consulted by the said bishops thereon; from which See it is not likely that unworthy persons can extort any such privileges, except by suppressing the truth, or by uttering what is false.

Those who quest for alms--who are also commonly called Questors-of whatsoever condition they may be, shall not in any way presume, either personally, or by another, to preach; and Contraveners shall, any privileges notwithstanding, be wholly restrained by suitable remedies, by the bishop and Ordinaries of the places.


The Session was afterwards prorogued to the thirteenth of January, MDXLVII.

The sacred and holy Synod also ordains and decrees, that the first ensuing Session be held and celebrated on the Thursday after the feast of the blessed apostle James.

The Council of Trent
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Hanover College Department of History