· Councils 

The Council of Trent

  Twenty Fourth Session, Decree  



Upon a Parish Church becoming vacant, a Vicar is to be deputed thereunto by the Bishop, until it be provided with a Parish Priest: in what manner and by whom those nominated to Parochial Churches ought to be examined.

    It is most highly expedient for the salvation of souls, that they be governed by worthy and competent parish priests. To the end that this may with greater care and effect be accomplished, the holy Synod ordains, that when a vacancy occurs in a parish church, whether by death, or by resignation, even in the Roman Court, or in any other manner whatsoever, though it may be alleged that the charge thereof devolves on the church (itself), or on the bishop, and though it may be served by one or more priests,-and this not excepting even those churches called patrimonial, or receptive, wherein the bishop has been accustomed to assign the cure of souls to one or more (priests), all of whom, as this Synod ordains, must be subjected to the examination herein prescribed later,-even though, moreover, the said parish church may be reserved, or appropriated, whether generally or specially, by virtue even of an indult, or privilege granted in favour of cardinals of the holy Roman Church, or of certain abbots, or chapters; it shall be the duty of the bishop, at once, upon obtaining information of the vacancy of the church, to appoint, if need be, a competent vicar to the same-with a suitable assignment, at his own discretion, of a portion of the fruits thereof-to support the duties of the said church, until it shall be provided with a rector. Moreover, the bishop, and he who has the right of patronage, shall, within ten days, or such other term as the bishop shall prescribe, nominate, in the presence of those who shall be deputed as examiners, certain clerics as capable of governing the said church. It shall nevertheless be free for others also, who may know any that are fit for the office, to give in their names, that a diligent scrutiny may be afterwards made as to the age, morals, and sufficiency of each. And even,-if the bishop, or the provincial Synod shall, considering the custom of the country, judge this more expedient,-those who may wish to be examined may be summoned by a public notice. When the time appointed has transpired, all those whose names have been entered shall be examined by the bishop, or, if he be hindered, by his Vicar-general, and by the other examiners, who shall not be fewer than three; to whose votes, if they should be equal, or given to distinct individuals, the bishop, or his vicar, may add theirs, in favour of whomsoever they shall think most fit.

    And as regards the examiners, six at least shall be annually proposed by the bishop, or by his vicar, in the diocesan Synod; who shall be such as shall satisfy, and shall be approved of by, the said Synod. And upon any vacancy occurring in any church, the bishop shall select three out of that number to make the examination with him; and afterwards, upon another vacancy following, he shall select, out of the six aforesaid, the same, or three others, whom he may prefer. But the said examiners shall be masters, or doctors, or licentiates in theology, or in canon law, or such other clerics, whether Regulars,-even of the order of mendicants,-or Seculars, as shall seem best adapted thereunto; and they shall all swear on the holy Gospels of God, that they will, setting aside every human affection, faithfully perform their duty. And they shall beware of receiving anything whatever, either before or after, on account of this examination; otherwise, both the receivers and the givers will incur the guilt of simony, from which they shall not be capable of being absolved, until after they have resigned the benefices which they were possessed of in any manner whatsoever, even before this act; and they shall be rendered incapable of any others for the time to come. And in regard of all these matters, they shall be bound to render an account, not only to God, but also, if need be, to the provincial Synod, which shall have power to punish them severely, at Its discretion, if it be ascertained that they have done anything contrary to their duty.

    Then, after the examination is completed, a report shall be made of all those who shall have been judged, by the said examiners, fit by age, morals, learning, prudence, and other suitable qualifications, to govern the vacant church; and out of these the bishop shall select him whom he shall judge the most fit of all; and to him, and to none other, shall the church be collated by him unto whom it belongs to collate thereunto. But, if the church be under ecclesiastical patronage, and the institution thereunto belongs to the bishop, and to none else, whomsoever the patron shall judge the most worthy from amongst those who have been approved of by the examiners, him he shall be bound to present to the bishop, that he may receive institution from him: but when the institution is to proceed from any other than the bishop, then the bishop alone shall select the worthiest from amongst the worthy, and him the patron shall present to him unto whom the institution belongs.

    But if it be under lay patronage, the individual who shall be presented by the patron, must be examined, as above, by those deputed thereunto, and not be admitted, unless he be found fit. And, in all the above-mentioned cases, to none other but to one of those who have been examined as aforesaid, and have been approved of by the examiners, according to the rule prescribed above, shall the church be committed, nor shall any devolution, or appeal, interposed even before the Apostolic See, or the legates, vice-legates, or nuncios of that see, or before any bishops, or metropolitans, primates, or patriarchs, hinder or suspend the report of the aforesaid examiners from being carried into execution: for the rest, the vicar whom the bishop has, at his own discretion, already deputed for the time being to the vacant church, or whom he may afterwards happen to depute thereunto, shall not be removed from the charge and administration of the said church, until it be provided for, either by the appointment of the vicar himself, or of some other person, who has been approved of and elected as above: and all provisions and institutions made otherwise than according to the above-named form, shall be accounted surreptitious: any exemptions, indults, privileges, preventions, appropriations, new provisions, indults granted to any university whatsoever, even for a certain sum, and any other impediments whatsoever, in opposition to this decree, notwithstanding.

    If, however, the said parish churches should possess so slight a revenue, as not to allow of the trouble of all this examination; or should no one seek to undergo this examination; or if, by reason of the open factions, or dissensions, which are met with in some places, more grievous quarrels and tumults may easily be excited thereby; the Ordinary may, omitting this formality, have recourse to a private examination, if, in his conscience, with the advice of the (examiners) deputed, he shall judge this expedient; observing however the other things as prescribed above. It shall also be lawful for the provincial Synod, if It shall judge that there are any particulars which ought to be added to, or retrenched from, the above regulations concerning the form of examination, to provide accordingly.


Mandates 'de providendo,' Expectatives, and other things of the like kind are abrogated.

    The holy Synod ordains, that mandates for contingent promotions, and those graces which are called expectant, shall not any more be granted to any one, not even to colleges, universities, senates, or to any individuals whatsoever, even though under the name of an indult, or up to a certain sum, or under any other colourable title; nor shall it be lawful for any one to make use of such as have been heretofore granted. So, neither shall any mental reservations, nor any other graces whatsoever in regard of future vacancies in benefices, nor indults which apply to churches belonging to others, or to monasteries, be granted to any, not even cardinals of the holy Roman Church; and those hitherto granted shall be looked upon as abrogated.


The manner of conducting causes, appertaining to the Ecclesiastical court, is prescribed.

    All causes belonging in any way whatever to the ecclesiastical court, even though they may relate to benefices, shall be taken cognizance of, in the first instance, before the Ordinaries of the places only; and shall be completely terminated within two years at the latest from the time that the suit was instituted: otherwise, at the expiration of that period, it shall be free for the parties, or for either of them, to have recourse to superior, but otherwise competent, judges, who shall take up the cause as it shall then stand, and shall take care that it be terminated with all possible despatch; nor, before that period, shall the causes be committed to any others (than the Ordinaries), nor be transferred therefrom; nor shall any appeals interposed by those parties be received by any superior judges whatsoever; nor shall any commission, or inhibition be issued by them, except upon a definitive sentence, or one that has the force thereof, and the grievance arising from which cannot be redressed by an appeal from that definitive sentence. From the above are to be excepted those causes, which, pursuant to the appointments of the canons, are to be tried before the Apostolic See, or those which the Sovereign Roman Pontiff shall, for an urgent and reasonable cause, judge fit to appoint, or to avocate, for his own hearing, by a special rescript under the signature of his Holiness signed with his own hand.

    Furthermore, matrimonial and criminal causes shall not be left to the judgment of deans, archdeacons, and other inferiors, even when on their course of visitation, but shall be reserved for the examination and jurisdiction of the bishop only; even though there should be, at this present moment, a suit pending, in whatsoever stage of the proceedings it may be, between any bishop, and the dean, or archdeacon, touching the cognizance of this class of causes: and if, in any said matrimonial cause, one of the parties shall truly prove his property in the presence of the bishop, he shall not be compelled to plead out of the province, either in the second or third stage of the suit, unless the other party will provide for his maintenance, and also bear the expenses of the suit.

Legates also, even though de latere, nuncios, ecclesiastical governors, or others, shall not only not presume, by virtue of any powers whatsoever, to impede bishops in the causes aforesaid, or in any wise to take from them, or to disturb their jurisdiction, but they shall not even proceed against clerics, or other ecclesiastical persons, until the bishop has been first applied to, and has shown himself negligent; otherwise their proceedings and ordinances shall be of no force, and they shall be bound to make satisfaction to the parties for the damages which they have sustained.

    Furthermore, should any individual appeal in those cases allowed of by law, or lodge a complaint touching any grievance, or have recourse, as aforesaid, to a judge, on account of two years having elapsed, he shall be bound to transfer, at his own expense, to the judge of appeal, all the acts of the proceedings that have taken place before the bishop, having given, however, notice thereof previously to the said bishop; that so, if it seem fit to him to communicate any information on the suit, he may acquaint the judge of appeal therewith. But if the appellee shall appear, then shall he also be bound to bear his proportion of the costs of transferring those acts, provided that he wishes to make use thereof; unless it be the custom of the place to act otherwise, to wit, that the entire costs have to be borne by the appellant.

    Moreover, the notary shall be bound to furnish the appellant, upon payment of the suitable fee, with a copy of the proceedings as soon as may be, and within a month at the furthest. And should that notary be guilty of any fraud in delaying the giving such copy, he shall be suspended from the exercise of his office, at the discretion of the Ordinary, and be condemned to pay double the costs of the suit, which shall be divided between the appellant and the poor of the place. But if the judge also should himself be cognizant of, and an accomplice in, this delay, or if he shall in any other way raise obstacles against the entire proceedings being delivered over to the appellant within the term aforesaid, he shall be subjected to the same penalty of paying double the costs, as above; notwithstanding, as regards all the aforesaid matters, any privileges, indults, covenants, which only bind the authors thereof, and any other customs whatsoever to the contrary.


It is declared, that, by certain words used previously, the usual manner of treating business in General Councils is not changed.

    The holy Synod,-being desirous that no occasion of doubting may, at any future period, arise out of the decrees which It has published,-in explanation of the words contained in a decree published in the first Session under our most blessed lord, Pius IV., to wit, "which, the legates and presidents proposing, shall to the said holy Synod appear suitable and proper for assuaging the calamities of these times, terminating the controversies concerning religion, restraining deceitful tongues, correcting the abuses of depraved manners, and procuring for the church a true and Christian peace," declares that it was not Its intention, that, by the foregoing words, the usual manner of treating matters in general Councils should be in any respect changed; or that anything new, besides that which has been heretofore established by the sacred canons, or by the form of general Councils, should be added to, or taken from, any one.


    Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod ordains and decrees, that the next ensuing Session be held on the Thursday after the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which will be the ninth day of December next, with the power also of abridging that term. In which Session there will be treated of the sixth chapter which is now deferred till then, and the remaining chapters on Reformation which have been already set forth, and other matters which relate thereunto. And if it shall seem advisable, and the time will allow thereof, certain dogmas may also be treated of, as in their proper season they shall be proposed in the congregations.

The term fixed for the Session was abridged.