· Councils 

The Council of Trent

  Fourteenth Session, Third Decree  



It is the office of bishops to admonish their subjects, especially those appointed to the cure of souls, of their duty.

Whereas it is properly the office of bishops to reprove the vices of all who are subject to them, this will have to be principally their care,--that clerics, especially those appointed to the cure of souls, be blameless; and that they do not, with their connivance, lead a disorderly life: for if they suffer them to be of evil and corrupt conversation, how shall they reprove the laity for their vices, when they themselves can be by one word silenced by them, for that they suffer clerics to be worse than they? And with what freedom shall priests be able to correct laymen, when they have to answer silently to themselves, that they have committed the very things which they reprove? Wherefore, bishops shall charge their clergy, of whatsoever rank they be, that they be a guide to the people of God committed to them, in conduct, conservation, and doctrine; being mindful of that which is written, Be holy for I also am holy. And, agreeably to the admonition of the apostle; Let them not give offence to any man, that their ministry be not blamed; but in all things let them exhibit themselves as the ministers of God, lest that saying of the prophet be fulfilled in them, The priests of God defile the sanctuaries, and despise the law. But, in order that the said bishops may be able to execute this with greater freedom, and may not be hindered therein under any pretext whatever, the same sacred and holy, ocecumenical and general Synod of Trent, the same legate and nuncios of the Apostolic See presiding therein, has thought fit that these canons following be established and decreed.


If any, being prohibited, or interdicted, or suspended, advance to orders, they shall be punished.

Whereas it is more beseeming and safe for one that is subject, by rendering due obedience to those set over him, to serve in an inferior ministry, than, to the scandal of those set over him, to aspire to the dignity of a more exalted degree; to him, unto whom the ascent to sacred orders shall have been interdicted by his own prelate, from whatsoever cause, be it even on account of some secret crime, or in what manner soever, even extra-judicially; and to him who shall have been suspended from his own orders, or ecclesiastical degrees and dignities; no license, conceded against the will of that said prelate, for causing himself to be promoted, nor any restoration to former orders, degrees, dignities and honours, shall be of any avail.


If a bishop shall confer any orders whatsoever on one not subject to him, be he even his own domestic, without the express consent of that individual's proper prelate, both shall be subjected to an appointed punishment.

And forasmuch as certain bishops of churches which are in partibus infidelium, (in the districts of unbelievers), having neither clergy nor Christian people, and being in a manner wanderers, having no fixed see, and seeking not the things of Christ, but other's sheep without the knowledge of their own pastor, finding themselves prohibited by this holy Synod from exercising episcopal functions in the diocese of another, without the express permission of the ordinary of the place, and then only in regard of those who are subject to the said ordinary, do, by an evasion and in contempt of the law, of their own rashness choose as it were an episcopal chair in a place which is not of any diocese, and presume to mark with the clerical character, and to promote even to the sacred orders of the priesthood, any that come unto them, even though they have no commendatory letters from their own bishops, or prelates; whence it for the most part comes to pass, that, persons being ordained who are but little fit, and are uninstructed and ignorant, and who have been rejected by their own bishops as incapable and unworthy, they are neither able rightly to perform the divine offices, nor to administer the sacraments of the Church: none of the bishops, who are called titular, even though they may reside, or tarry in a place within no diocese, even though it be exempted, or in a monastery of whatsoever order, shall, by virtue of any privilege granted them to promote during a certain time such as come unto them, be able to ordain, or to promote to any sacred or minor orders, or even to the first tonsure, the subject of another bishop, even under the pretext of his being his domestic fed constantly at his own table, without the express consent of, or without letters demissory from that individual's own bishop. The contravener shall be ipso jure suspended during a year from the exercise of pontifical functions; and the person so promoted shall in like manner be suspended from the exercise of the orders so received, for as long as to his own prelate shall seem fit.


The bishop may suspend his clerics, who have been improperly promoted by another, if he find them incompetent.

The bishop may suspend, for the time that shall seem to him fit, from the exercise of the orders received, and may interdict from ministering at the altar, or from exercising the functions of any order, any of his clerics, especially those who are in sacred orders, who have been, without his previous examination and commendatory letters, promoted by any authority whatsoever; even though they shall have been approved of as competent by him who has ordained them, but whom he himself shall find but little fit and able to celebrate the divine offices, or to administer the sacraments of the Church.


No cleric shall be exempt from the correction of the bishop, even out of the time of visitation.

All prelates of the churches, who ought diligently to apply themselves to correct the excesses of their subjects,-and from whose jurisdiction, by the statutes of this holy Synod, no cleric is, under the pretext of any privilege soever, considered screened, so as not to be able to be visited, punished and corrected, in accordance with the appointments of the canons,--provided those prelates be resident in their own churches,--shall have power, as delegates for this end of the Apostolic See, to correct and punish, even out of the times of visitation, all Secular clerics,--howsoever exempted, who would otherwise be subject to their jurisdiction,--for their excesses, crimes, and delinquencies, as often as, and whensoever there shall be need; no exemptions, declarations, customs, sentences, oaths, concordates, which only bind the authors thereof, being of any avail to the said clerics, or to their relatives, chaplains, domestics, agents, or to any others whatsoever, in view and in consideration of the said exempted clerics.


The jurisdiction of Conservators is confined within certain limits.

Moreover, whereas sundry persons, under the plea that divers wrongs and annoyances are inflicted on them in their goods, possessions, and rights, obtain certain judges to be deputed by means of letters conservatory, to protect and defend them from the said annoyances and wrongs, and to maintain and keep them in possession, or quasi-possession, of their goods, property, and rights, without suffering them to be molested therein; and whereas they pervert these letters, in many ways, to an evil meaning quite opposed to the intention of the donor;--therefore, these letters conservatory, whatsoever be their clauses or decrees, whatsoever be the judges deputed, or under whatsoever other kind of pretext or colour, these letters may have been granted, shall not avail any, of what dignity and condition soever, even though a Chapter, so as to screen the party from being capable of being, in criminal and mixed causes, accused and summoned, and from being examined and proceeded against before his own bishop, or other ordinary superior; or prevent him from being liable to be freely summoned before the ordinary judge, in the matter of any rights which may be pleaded as his from having been ceded to him. In civil causes also, if he be the plaintiff, it shall nowise be lawful for him to bring up any one for judgment before his own judges conservatory. And if, in those causes wherein he shall be the defendant, it shall happen that the conservator chosen by him shall be declared by the plaintiff to be one suspected by him, or if any dispute shall have arisen between the judges themselves, the conservator to wit and the ordinary, concerning competency of jurisdiction, the cause shall not be proceeded with, until by arbitrators, chosen in legal form, a decision shall have been come to relative to the said suspicion, or competency of jurisdiction. Neither shall these letters conservatory be of any avail to the said party's domestics--who are in the habit of screening themselves thereby--save to two only, and this provided they live at his proper cost. Neither shall any one enjoy the benefit of such letters longer than for five years. It shall also not be lawful for conservatory judges to have any fixed tribunal. As to causes which relate to wages and to destitute persons, the decree of this holy Synod thereupon shall remain in its full force. But general universities, colleges of doctors or scholars, places belonging to Regulars, as also hospitals wherein hospitality is actually exercised, and persons belonging to the said universities, colleges, places, and hospitals are not to be deemed included in this present canon, but are to be considered, and are, wholly exempted.


A penalty is decreed against clerics, who, being in sacred Orders, or holding benefices, do not wear a dress beseeming their Order.

And forasmuch as, though the habit does not make the monk, it is nevertheless needful that clerics always wear a dress suitable to their proper order, that by the decency of their outward apparel they may show forth the inward correctness of their morals; but to such a pitch, in these days, have the contempt of religion and the rashness of some grown, as that, making but little account of their own dignity, and of the clerical honour, they even wear in public the dress of laymen--setting their feet in different paths, one of God, the other of the flesh;-for this cause, all ecclesiastical persons, howsoever exempted, who are either in sacred orders or in possession of any manner of dignities, personates, or other offices, or benefices ecclesiastical; if, after having been admonished by their own bishop, even by a public edict,(p) they shall not wear a becoming clerical dress, suitable to their order and dignity, and in conformity with the ordinance and mandate of the said bishop, they may, and ought to be, compelled thereunto, by suspension from their orders, office, benefice, and from the fruits, revenues, and proceeds of the said benefices; and also, if, after having been once rebuked, they offend again herein, (they are to be coerced) even by deprivation of the said offices and benefices; pursuant to the constitution of Clement V. published in the Council of Vienne, and beginning Quoniam, which is hereby renewed and enlarged.


Voluntary homicides are never to be ordained: in what manner involuntary homicides are to be ordained.

Whereas too, he who has killed his neighbour on set purpose and by lying in wait for him, is to be taken away from the altar, (q) because he has voluntarily committed a homicide ; even though that crime have neither been proved by ordinary process of law, nor be otherwise public, but is secret, such an one can never be promoted to sacred orders; nor shall it be lawful to confer upon him any ecclesiastical benefices, even though they have no cure of souls; but he shall be for ever excluded from every ecclesiastical order, benefice, and office. But if it be alleged that the homicide was not committed purposely but accidentally, or when repelling force by force that he might defend himself from death, in such wise that, by a kind of right, a dispensation ought to be granted, even for the ministry of sacred orders, and of the altar, and for any kind of benefice whatever and dignity,-the case shall be committed to the Ordinary of the place, or, if there be a cause for it, to the metropolitan, or to the nearest bishop; who shall not be able to dispense, without having taking cognizance of the case, and after the prayers and allegations have been proved, and not otherwise.


No one shall, by virtue of any privilege, punish the clerics of another.

Furthermore, forasmuch as there are sundry persons,--some of whom even are true pastors, and have their own sheep,--who seek also to rule over the sheep of others, and at times give their attention in such wise to the subjects of others, as to neglect the care of their own; no one, even though he be of episcopal dignity, who may have by privilege the power of punishing the subjects of another, shall by any means proceed against clerics not subject to him,--especially against such as are in sacred orders,--be they guilty of crime ever so atrocious; except with the intervention of the proper bishop of the said clerics, if that bishop be resident in his own church, or of the person that may be deputed by the said bishop: otherwise, the proceedings, and all the consequences thereof, shall be wholly without effect.


The Benefices of one Diocese shall not, under any pretext, be united to the Benefices of another Diocese.

And forasmuch as it is with very good reason that dioceses and parishes have been made distinct, and to each flock their proper pastors have been assigned, and to inferior churches their rectors, each to take care of his own sheep, that so ecclesiastical order may not be confounded, or one and the same church belong in some sort to two dioceses, not without grievous inconvenience to such as are subject thereunto; the benefices of one diocese, be they even parochial churches, perpetual vicarages, simple benefices, prestimonies, or prestimonial portions, shall not be united in perpetuity to a benefice, monastery, college, or even to a pious place, of another diocese, not even for the sake of augmenting divine worship, or the number of beneficiaries, or for any other cause whatsoever; thus herein explaining the decree of this holy Synod on the subject of these unions.


Regular Benefices shall be conferred on Regulars.

Benefices of Regulars that have been accustomed to be granted in title to professed Regulars, when they happen to become vacant by the death of the titulary incumbent, or by his resignation, or otherwise, shall be conferred on religious of that order only, or on persons who shall be absolutely bound to take the habit, and make that profession, and upon none others, that they may not wear a garment that is woven of woollen and linen together. (r)


Those transferred to another order shall remain under obedience in enclosure, and shall be incapable of Secular Benefices.

But forasmuch as Regulars, after being transferred from one order to another, ordinarily obtain permission easily from their superior to remain out of their monastery, whereby occasion is given of their wandering about and apostatizing; no prelate or superior of any order shall be allowed, by virtue of any faculty whatsoever, to admit any individual to the habit and to profession, except with the view that he shall remain perpetually in enclosure under obedience to his own superior, in the order itself to which he is transferred; and one so transferred, even though he be a canon Regular, shall be wholly incapable of Secular Benefices, even of cures.


No one shall obtain a right of patronage, except by means of a foundation, or an endowment.

No one, moreover, of whatsoever ecclesiastical or Secular dignity, can, or ought to, obtain, or acquire a right of patronage, for any other reason whatever, but that he has founded, and built anew, a church, benefice, or chapel; or that he has competently endowed, out of his own proper and patrimonial resources,(s) one already erected, which, however, is without a sufficient endowment. But, in case of such foundation or endowment, the institution thereof shall be reserved to the bishop, and not to some other inferior person.


The Presentation shall be made to the Ordinary; otherwise the Presentation and Institution shall be null.

Furthermore, it shall not be lawful for a patron, under pretext of any privilege whatsoever, to present any one, in any way, to the benefices which are under his right of patronage, except to the ordinary bishop of the place, to whom the providing for, or the institution to, the said benefice would, that privilege ceasing, of right belong; otherwise the presentation and institution, which may have followed, shall be null, and as such reputed.


That the Mass, Order, and Reformation, shall be next treated of.

The holy Synod declares, moreover, that, in the next Session, which It has already decreed is to beholden on the twenty-fifth day of January, of the ensuing year, MDLII,--It will, together with the sacrifice of the mass, also apply itself to, and treat of the sacrament of order, and that the subject of reformation will be prosecuted.