· Councils 

The Council of Trent

  Sixth Session, Second Decree  



It is meet that prelates reside in their own churches; if they act otherwise, the penalties of the ancient law are renewed against them, and fresh penalties decreed.

The same sacred and holy Synod,-the same legates of the Apostolic See presiding,-wishing to apply itself to restore ecclesiastical discipline, which is exceedingly relaxed, and to amend the depraved manners of the clergy and Christian people, has thought it fit to begin with those who preside over the greater churches; for the integrity of those who govern, is the safety of the governed. Trusting, therefore, that by the mercy of our Lord and God, and the provident vigilance of His own vicar on earth, it will surely for the future happen, that those who are most worthy,-and whose previous life, in every stage thereof, from their infancy to their riper years, having been laudably passed in the exercises of ecclesiastical discipline, bears testimony in their favour,-will be assumed unto the government of churches, in accordance with the venerable ordinances of the Fathers, for that it is a burthen whose weight would be formidable even unto angels: (the Synod) admonishes all those who, under whatsoever name and title, are set over any patriarchal, primatial, metropolitan, and cathedral churches, and hereby accounts all such admonished, that, taking heed to themselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed them to rule the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood, they be vigilant, as the Apostle enjoins, that they labour in all things, and fulfil their ministry: but let them know, that fulfil it they cannot, if like hirelings they abandon the flocks committed to them, and apply not themselves to the keeping of their own sheep, whose blood will be required at their hands, by the Supreme Judge; seeing that it is most certain that, if the wolf have devoured the sheep, the shepherd's excuse will not be admitted, that he knew not thereof.

And yet, for as much as some are to be found at this time, who-as is grievously to be lamented-forgetful even of their own salvation, and preferring earthly things to heavenly, and things human before divine, wander about in various courts, or, their fold forsaken, and the care of the sheep committed to them neglected, keep themselves occupied with the solicitudes of temporal affairs; it hath seemed good to the sacred and holy Synod to renew, as by virtue of the present decree It doth renew, the ancient canons promulgated against non-residents, which (canons) have, through the disorders of the times and of men, well nigh fallen into desuetude; and furthermore, in order to the more fixed residence of the same, and for the reforming of manners in the church, it hath seemed good to appoint and ordain in the manner following:-If any one, by whatsoever dignity, degree, and pre-eminence distinguished, shall, by remaining six months together out of his own diocese, all lawful impediment, or just and reasonable causes ceasing, be absent from a patriarchal, primatial, metropolitan, or cathedral church, under what title soever, cause, name, or right committed to him, he shall ipso jure incur the penalty of the forfeiture of a fourth part of one year's fruits, to be applied, by an ecclesiastical superior, to the fabric of the church and to the poor of the place. And if he continue absent in this way during six other months, he shall thereupon forfeit another fourth part of the fruits to be applied in like manner. But if the contumacy proceed yet further, the metropolitan shall, for the subjecting him to a severer censure of the sacred canons, be obliged to denounce his absent suffragan bishops, and the oldest resident suffragan bishop to denounce his absent metropolitan, to the Roman pontiff, either by letter or by messenger, within the space of three months, under the penalty, to be ipso facto incurred, of being interdicted from entering into the church; that he, by the authority of his own supreme See, may proceed against the said non-resident prelates, according as the greater or less contumacy of each may require, and provide the said churches with more useful pastors, as he shall know in the Lord to be salutary and expedient.


It is not lawful for any one who holds a benefice requiring personal residence to absent himself, save for a just cause to be approved of by the bishop, who even then shall, for the cure of souls, substitute a vicar in his stead, withdrawing a portion of the fruits.

Those inferior to bishops, who hold by title, or in commendam, any ecclesiastical benefices requiring personal residence whether by law or custom, shall be compelled, by their Ordinaries, to reside, by suitable legal remedies; as to them shall seem expedient for the good government of the churches and the advancement of the service of God, taking into account the character of the places and persons; and to no one shall any perpetual privileges, or indults, in favour of non-residence, or of receiving the fruits during absence, be of avail: temporary indulgences and dispensations, however, granted solely for true and reasonable causes, and which are to be legitimately proved before the Ordinary, shall remain in force; in which cases nevertheless, it shall be the office of bishops, as delegated in this matter by the Apostolic See, to provide that, by deputing competent vicars, and by assigning them a suitable portion of the fruits, the cure of souls be nowise neglected; no privilege or exemption whatever being of avail to any in this regard.


The excesses of Secular clerics and of Regulars who live out of their monasteries, shall be corrected by the Ordinary of the place.

The prelates of the churches shall apply themselves prudently and diligently to correct the excesses of their subjects; and no Secular cleric, under pretext of a personal privilege, or any Regular, living out of his monastery, shall, under pretext of a privilege of his order, be accounted, if he transgress, exempt from being visited, punished, and corrected, in accordance with the ordinances of the canons, by the Ordinary of the place, as being delegated hereunto by the Apostolic See.


Bishops and other greater prelates shall visit any churches whatsoever, as often as there shall be need; everything which might hinder this decree being abrogated.

The Chapters of cathedral, and of other greater, churches, and the members thereof, shall not be able,-by any exemptions, customs, judgments, oaths, concordates, which only bind the authors thereof and not also their successors,-to screen themselves from being capable of being, in accordance with the ordinances of the canons, visited, corrected, and amended, as often as shall be needful, even with apostolical authority, by their own bishops, and other greater prelates, by themselves alone, or with those whom they shall see fit to have accompany them.


Bishops shall neither exercise any pontifical function, nor ordain, in another diocese.

It shall not be lawful for any bishop, under the plea of any privilege soever, to exercise pontifical functions in the diocese of another, save by the express permission of the Ordinary of the place, and in regard to those persons only who are subject to that same Ordinary: if the contrary shall have been done, the bishop shall be ipso facto suspended from the exercise of episcopal functions, and those so ordained (be similarly suspended) from the exercise of their orders.


Doth it please you, that the next ensuing Session be celebrated on Thursday, the fifth day after the first Sunday of the approaching Lent, which (Thursday) will be the third day of the month of March?

They answered: It pleaseth us.