The Twenty-Third Session


The same sacred and holy Synod of Trent, prosecuting the matter of reformation, resolves and decrees that the things following be at present ordained.


The negligence of Pastors of Churches in residing is variously punished: provision is made for the cure of souls.

Whereas it is by divine precept enjoined on all, to whom the cure of souls is committed, to know their own sheep; to offer sacrifice for them; and, by the preaching of the divine word, by the administration of the sacraments, and by the example of all good works, to feed them; to have a fatherly care of the poor and of other distressed persons, and to apply themselves to all other pastoral duties; all which (offices) cannot be rendered and fulfilled by those who neither watch over nor are with their own flock, but abandon it after the manner of hirelings; the sacred and holy Synod admonishes and exhorts such, that mindful of the divine precepts, and made a pattern of the flock, they feed and rule in judgment and in truth. And for fear lest those things which have been already elsewhere holily and usefully ordained, concerning residence, under Paul III., of happy memory, may be wrested to a meaning alien from the mind of the sacred and holy Synod, as if by virtue of that decree it were lawful to be absent during five continuous months; the sacred and holy Synod, adhering to those decrees, declares, that all persons who are--under whatsoever name and title, even though they be cardinals of the holy Roman Church--set over any patriarchal, primatial, metropolitan, and cathedral churches whatsoever, are obliged to personal residence in their own church, or diocese, where they shall be bound to discharge the office enjoined them; and may not be absent thence, save for the causes and in the manner subjoined. For whereas Christian charity, urgent necessity, due obedience, and the evident utility of the Church, or of the commonwealth, require and demand that some at times be absent, this same sacred and holy Synod ordains, that these causes of lawful absence are to be approved of in writing by the most blessed Roman Pontiff, or by the metropolitan, or, in his absence, by the oldest resident suffragan bishop, whose duty it shall also be to approve of the absence of the metropolitan; except when such absence happens in consequence of some employment and office in the state attached to the bishoprics; the causes of which absence being notorious, and at times sudden, it will not be necessary even to notify them to the metropolitan; to whom it shall however belong, conjointly with the provincial Council, to judge of the permissions granted by himself, or by his suffragan, and to see that no one abuse that right, and that transgressors are punished with the penalties adjudged by the canons. Meanwhile let those about to depart remember to provide in such sort for their sheep, as that, as far as possible, they may not suffer any injury through their absence. But, forasmuch as those who are only absent for a short period, are, in the sense of the ancient canons, not supposed to be absent, for that they are about to return immediately; the sacred and holy Synod wills, that that term of absence, whether continuous or interrupted, ought not by any means to exceed two, or at most three, months; except for the causes above named; and that regard be had that it be done from a just cause, and without any detriment to the flock: which, whether it be the case, the Synod leaves to the conscience of those who withdraw themselves which It hopes will be religious and timorous; seeing that their hearts are open before God, whose work they are bound, at their periol, not to do deceitfully. In the meantime It admonishes and exhorts them in the Lord, that unless their episcopal duties call them to some other part of their own diocese, they on no account be absent from their own cathedral church during the period of the Advent of the Lord, and of Lent, on the days of the Nativity, of the Lord's Resurrection, of Pentecost, and of Corpus Christi, on which days especially the sheep ought to be refreshed, and to rejoice in the Lord at the presence of the Shepherd.

But if any one, which it is hoped will never happen, shall be absent, contrary to the regulation of this decree, the sacred and holy Synod ordains, that, in addition to the other penalties imposed upon and renewed against non-residents, under Paul III., and the guilt of mortal sin which such an one incurs, he acquires no property in any fruits, in proportion to the time of his absence, and that he cannot, even though no other declaration but this follow, retain them as his with a safe conscience; but is bound, or, in his default, his ecclesiastical superior for him, to apply them to the fabric of the churches, or to the poor of the place; every kind of agreement, or composition as it is called, in regard of ill-gotten fruits, being prohibited, whereby the aforesaid fruits even might be wholly, or in part, restored to him; any privileges whatsoever, granted to any college or fabric, to the contrary notwithstanding.

The same also, both as regards the guilt, the loss of fruits, and the penalties, does the sacred and holy Synod wholly declare and decree, in regard of inferior pastors, and all others whomsoever who hold any ecclesiastical benefice having cure of souls; in such wise, however, as that, whensoever it shall happen that they are absent, for a cause that has been first made known to, and been approved of by, the bishop, they shall leave, with a due allowance of stipend, a suitable vicar, to be approved of by the Ordinary. And they shall not obtain permission to be absent,--which is to be granted in writing and gratuitously,--for a larger period than two months, except for some weighty cause; and if, after having been cited, even though not personally, by an edict, they shall be contumacious, the Synod wills, that it be in the power of the Ordinaries to constrain them by ecclesiastical censures, and by the sequestration and substraction of fruits, and by other legal remedies, even as far as deprivation; and that the execution hereof shall not be able to be suspended by any manner of privilege soever, license, claim as a domestic, exemption,--though even upon the ground of any manner of benefice,--by any compact, or statute,--even though confirmed by oath or by what authority soever,--by any custom, even though immemorial, which herein is to be looked upon rather as a corruption, or by any appeal, or inhibition, even in the Roman Court, or by virtue of the constitution of Eugenius. Finally, the holy Synod commands, that both the decree under Paul III., and this present, shall be published in the provincial and episcopal councils; for It desires that things so nearly concerning the office of pastors, and the salvation of souls, be frequently impressed on the minds and ears of all men, that so, with God's help, they may never hereafter be abolished through the injury of time, the forgetfulness of men, or by desuetude.


Those set over Churches shall receive the rite of consecration within three months; where the consecration is to take place.

Those who,--under whatsoever name or title, even though they be cardinals of the holy Roman Church,--have been set over cathedral, or superior, churches, if they shall not, within three months, have received the rite of consecration, shall be bound to restore the fruits which they have received; if they shall have neglected to do this within three other months afterwards, they shall be ipso jure deprived of their churches. And their consecration, if performed out of the Court of Rome, shall be celebrated in the church to which they have been promoted, or in the province, if it can be conveniently done.


Bishops, except in case of illness, shall confer Order in person.

Bishops shall themselves confer orders; but, should they be prevented by illness, they shall not send their subjects to another bishop for ordination, unless they have been already approved of and examined.


Who are to be initiated by the first tonsure.

None shall be initiated by the first tonsure, who have not received the sacrament of Confirmation; and who have not been taught the rudiments of the faith; and who do not know how to read and write; and in whose regard there is not a probable conjecture, that they have chosen this manner of life, that they may render unto God a faithful service, and not that they may fraudulently withdraw themselves from Secular jurisdiction.


Wherewith those who are to be ordained are to be furnished.

Those who are to be promoted to minor orders shall have a good testimonial from their parish priest; and from the master of the school in which they are educated. As to those who are to be raised to any one of the greater orders, they shall, a month before ordination, repair to the bishop, who shall commission the parish priest, or such other person as may be deemed more expedient, to state publicly in the church the names and the desire of those who wish to be promoted; and to diligently inform himself, from persons worthy of credit, of the birth, age, morals, and life of those who are to be ordained, and shall transmit to the bishop himself, as soon as possible, letters testimonial containing the actual inquiry that has been made.


The age of fourteen years is required for an ecclesiastical benfice; who is to enjoy the privilege of the (ecclesiastical) court.

No one, after being initiated by the first tonsure, or even after being constituted in minor orders, shall be able to hold a benefice before his fourteenth year. Further, he shall not enjoy the privilege of the (ecclesiastical) court, unless he have an ecclesiastical benefice; or, wearing the ecclesiastical dress and tonsure, he serves in some church by the bishop's order, or lives with the bishop's permission in an ecclesiastical seminary, or in some school, or university, on the way as it were to receive the greater orders. As regards married clerks, the constitution of Boniface VIII., which begins, clerici qui cum unicis, shall be observed; provided the said clerks, being deputed by the bishop to the service or ministry of some church, serve and minister therein, and wear the clerical dress and tonsure: no privilege, or custom, even immemorial, availing any one herein.


Those to be ordained are to be examined by persons versed in divine and human laws.

The holy Synod, adhering to the traces of the ancient canons, ordains, that when a bishop has arranged to hold an ordination, all who may wish to be received into the sacred ministry shall be summoned to the city, for the Thursday before the said ordination, or for such other day as the bishop shall think fit. And the bishop, calling to his assistance priests and other prudent persons, well skilled in the divine law, and of experience in the constitutions of the church, shall diligently investigate and examine the parentage, person, age, education, morals, learning, and faith of those who are to be ordained.


How, and by whom, each ought to be ordained.

Ordinations of sacred orders shall be celebrated publicly, at the time appointed by law, and in the cathedral churches, in the presence of the canons of that church, who are to be invited for that purpose; but, if they are celebrated in some other place of the diocese, in the presence of the clergy of the place; the principal church being always, as far as possible, made use of. But each one shall be ordained by his own bishop. And if any one ask to be promoted by another bishop, this shall by no means be allowed him, even under the pretext of any general or special rescript or privilege whatsoever, even at the appointed times; unless his probity and morals be recommended by the testimony of his own Ordinary; otherwise, he who ordains him shall be suspended from conferring orders during a year, and he who has been ordained shall be suspended from exercising the orders which he has received, for as long a period as shall seem expedient to his own Ordinary.


A bishop ordaining one of his own household, shall at once and really confer upon him a benefice.

A bishop may not ordain one of his household, who is not his subject, unless he has lived with him for the space of three years; and he shall really, and without fraud of any kind, at once confer on him a benefice; any custom, even though immemorial, to the contrary notwithstanding.


Prelates inferior to bishops shall not give the tonsure, or minor orders, save to Regulars their own subjects; neither shall they, nor any Chapters whatsoever, grant dimissory letters; a more grievous penalty is enacted against those who offend against this decree.

It shall not henceforth be lawful for abbots, or for any other persons whatsoever, howsoever exempted, being within the limits of any diocese, even though they be said to be of no diocese, or to be exempted, to confer the tonsure, or minor orders on any one who is not a Regular subject to them; nor shall the said abbots, and other exempted persons, or any colleges, or Chapters whatsoever, even those of cathedral churches, grant letters dimissory to any Secular clerics to be ordained by others. But the ordination of all these persons shall appertain to the bishops within the limits of whose diocese they are, all things considered in the decrees of this holy Synod being observed; any privilege, prescriptions, or customs, even though immemorial, notwithstanding. And the Synod ordains, that the penalty imposed on those, who, contrary to the decree of this holy Synod under Paul III., obtain, during the vacancy of the episcopal See, letters dimissory from the Chapter, be also extended to those who shall obtain the said letters, not from the Chapter, but from any other persons whatsoever, who, during the vacancy of the See, succeed to the jurisdiction of the bishop, in lieu of the Chapter. And they who give dimissory letters, contrary to the form of this decree, shall be ipso jure suspended during a year from their office and benefice.


The interstices, and certain other regulations, to be observed in receiving minor orders.

The minor orders shall not be given but to such as understand the Latin language at least, observing the appointed interstices of time, unless the bishop shall think it more expedient to act otherwise; that so they may be the more accurately taught how great is the obligation of this their state of life; and may exercise themselves in each office, agreeably to the appointment of the bishop; and this in the church to which they shall be assigned, unless they happen to be absent on account of their studies; and may thus ascend step by step: that so with their increasing age they may grow in worthiness of life and in learning; of which they will give proof especially by the example of their good conduct, by their assiduous service in the church, their greater reverence towards priests and the superior orders, and by a more frequent communion than heretofore of the Body of Christ. And whereas from these orders is the entrance unto higher orders and to the most sacred mysteries, no one shall be admitted thereunto, whom the promise of knowledge does not point out as worthy of the greater orders. And such shall not be promoted to sacred orders till a year after the reception of the last degree of minor orders; unless necessity, or the utility of the church, in the bishop's judgment, shall require otherwise.


Age required for the major orders; the deserving only to be admitted.

No one shall for the future be promoted to the order of subdeaconship before the twenty-second year of age; to that of deaconship before his twenty-third year; to that of priesthood before his twenty-fifth year. Nevertheless, bishops are to know, that not all who have attained to that age must needs be admitted to the aforesaid orders, but those only who are worthy, and whose commendable life is an old age. Regulars likewise shall not be ordained under the above age, nor without a diligent examination by the bishop; all privileges whatsoever in this regard being completely set aside.


On the conditions required in the Ordination of a Subdeacon and Deacon: on no one shall two sacred Orders be conferred on the same day.

Such as have a good testimonial, and have been already tried in minor orders, and are instructed in letters, and in those things which belong to the exercise of their orders, shall be ordained subdeacons and deacons. They shall have a hope, with God's help, to be able to live continently; they shall serve in the churches to which they may be assigned; and are to know that it is very highly becoming that, after ministering at the altar, they should receive the sacred communion, at least on the Lord's days and solemnities. Those who have been promoted to the sacred order of the subdeaconship shall not, until they have remained therein during at least a year, be permitted to ascend to a higher degree, unless the bishop shall judge otherwise. Two sacred orders shall not be conferred on the same day, even upon Regulars; any privileges and indults whatsoever, to whomsoever granted, to the contrary notwithstanding.


Who are to be raised to the Priesthood: their office.

Those who have conducted themselves piously and faithfully in their precedent functions, and are promoted to the order of priesthood, shall have a good testimonial, and be persons who not only have served in their office of deacon during at least an entire year,-unless for the utility and the necessity of the Church, the bishop should judge otherwise,-but who have also been approved to be, by a careful previous examination, capable of teaching the people those things which it is necessary for all to know unto salvation, as also fit to administer the sacraments; and so conspicuous for piety and chasteness of morals, as that a shining example of good works and a lesson how to live may be expected from them. The bishop shall take care that they celebrate mass at least on the Lord's Days, and on solemn festivals; but, if they have the cure of souls, so often as to satisfy their obligation. The bishop may, for a lawful cause, grant a dispensation to those who have been promoted per saltum, provided they have not exercised the ministry (of that order).


No one shall hear confessions, unless he be approved of by the Ordinary.

Although priests receive in their ordination the power of absolving from sins; nevertheless, the holy Synod ordains, that no one, even though he be a Regular, is able to hear the confessions of Seculars, not even of priests, and that he is not to be reputed fit thereunto, unless he either holds a parochial benefice, or is, by the bishops, after an examination if they shall think it necessary, or in some other manner, judged capable; and has obtained their approval, which shall be granted gratuitously; any privileges, and custom whatsoever, though immemorial, to the contrary notwithstanding.


Those who are ordained shall be assigned to a particular church.

Whereas no one ought to be ordained, who, in the judgment of his own bishop, is not useful or necessary for his churches, the holy Synod, adhering to the traces of the sixth canon of the council of Chalcedon, ordains, that no one shall for the future be ordained without being attached to that church, or pious place, for the need, or utility of which he is promoted; there to discharge his duties, and not wander about without any certain abode. And if he shall quit that place without consulting the bishop, he shall be interdicted from the exercise of his sacred (orders). Furthermore, no cleric, who is a stranger, shall, without letters commendatory from his own Ordinary, be admitted by any bishop to celebrate the divine mysteries, and to administer the sacraments.


In what manner the exercise of the minor orders is to be restored.

That the functions of holy orders, from the deacon to the janitor,-which functions have been laudably received in the Church from the times of the apostles, and which have been for some time interrupted in very many places,-may be again brought into use in accordance with the sacred canons; and that they may not be traduced by heretics as useless; the holy Synod, burning with the desire of restoring the pristine usage, ordains that, for the future, such functions shall not be exercised but by those who are actually in the said orders; and It exhorts in the Lord all and each of the prelates of the churches, and commands them, that it be their care to restore the said functions, as far as it can be conveniently done, in the cathedral, collegiate, and parochial churches of their dioceses, where the number of the people and the revenues of the church can support it; and, to those who exercise those functions, they shall assign salaries out of some part of the revenues of any simple benefices, or those of the fabric of the church,-if the funds allow of it,-or out of the revenues of both together, of which stipends they may, if negligent, be mulcted in a part, or be wholly deprived thereof, according to the judgment of the Ordinary. And if there should not be unmarried clerics at hand to exercise the functions of the four minor orders, their place may be supplied by married clerics of approved life; provided they have not been twice married, be competent to discharge the said duties, and wear the tonsure and the clerical dress in church.

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