· Councils 

The Council of Trent

  Twenty Second Session, Second Decree  


The same sacred and holy, ecumenical and general Synod of Trent,--lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same Legates of the Apostolic See presiding therein,--to the end that the business of reformation may be proceeded with, has thought good that the following things be ordained in the present Session.


The Canons relative to the life, and propriety of conduct of Clerics are renewed.

There is nothing that continually instructs others unto piety, and the service of God, more than the life and example of those who have dedicated themselves to the divine ministry. For as they are seen to be raised to a higher position, above the things of this world, others fix their eyes upon them as upon a mirror, and derive from them what they are to imitate. Wherefore clerics called to have the Lord for their portion, ought by all means so to regulate their whole life and conversation, as that in their dress, comportment, gait, discourse, and all things else, nothing appear but what is grave, regulated, and replete with religiousness; avoiding even slight faults, which in them would be most grievous; that so their actions may impress all with veneration. Whereas, therefore, the more useful and decorous these things are for the Church of God, the more carefully also are they to be attended to; the holy Synod ordains, that those things which have been heretofore copiously and wholesomely enacted by sovereign pontiffs and sacred councils,--relative to the life, propriety of conduct, dress, and learning of clerics, and also touching the luxuriousness, feastings, dances, gambling, sports, and all sorts of crime whatever, as also the secular employments, to be by them shunned,--the same shall be henceforth observed, under the same penalties, or greater, to be imposed at the discretion of the Ordinary; nor shall any appeal suspend the execution hereof, as relating to the correction of manners. But if anything of the above shall be found to have fallen into desuetude, they shall make it their care that it be brought again into use as soon as possible, and be accurately observed by all; any customs to the contrary notwithstanding; lest they themselves may have, God being the avenger, to pay the penalty deserved by their neglect of the correction of those subject to them.


Who are to be promoted to Cathedral Churches.

Whosoever is, hereafter, to be promoted to a cathedral church shall not only be fully qualified by birth, age, morals, and life, and, in other respects, as required by the sacred canons, but shall also have been previously constituted in sacred Order, for the space of at least six months. And information on these points, if the individual be only recently, or not at all, known at the court (of Rome), shall be derived from the Legates of the Apostolic See, or from the Nuncios of the provinces, or from his Ordinary, and in his default, from the nearest Ordinaries. And, besides the things above-named, he shall possess such learning as to be able to discharge the obligations of the office that is about to be conferred upon him; and he shall, therefore, have been previously promoted by merit, in some university for studies, to be a master, or doctor, or licentiate, in sacred theology, or in canon law; or shall be declared, by the public testimony of some academy, fit to teach others. And, if he be a Regular, he shall have a similar attestation from the superiors of his own order. And all the above-named persons, from whom the information, or testimony, aforesaid is to be derived shall be bound to report on these matters faithfully and gratuitously; otherwise let them know, that their conciences will be grievously burthened, and that God, and their own superiors, will punish them.


Daily distributions, out of the third part of all fruits soever, are to be established; on whom the portion of absentees devolves; certa in cases excepted.

Bishops, even as the delegates of the Apostolic See, shall have power to divide the third part of any manner of fruits and proceeds of all dignities, personates, and offices existing in cathedral or collegiate churches, into distributions, to be assigned as they shall judge fit; in such wise to wit, that, if those who ought to receive them should fail, on any appointed day, personally to discharge the duty that devolves upon them, according to the form that shall be prescribed by the said bishops, they shall forfeit that day's distribution, and shall acquire no manner of property therein, but it shall be applied to the fabric of the church, as far as it may need it, or to some other pious place, at the discretion of the Ordinary. But if their contumacy increase, they shall proceed against them according to the constitution of the sacred canons. But if any of the aforesaid dignitaries has, neither by right, nor custom, any jurisdiction, administration, or office, devolving upon him in the cathedral or collegiate churches; but, out of the city, in the same diocese, there is a cure of souls to be attended to, which he who holds that dignity is willing to take upon himself; in this case, during the time that he shall reside and minister in the church with that cure, he shall be considered as though he were present and assisted at the divine offices in those cathedral or collegiate churches. These things are to be understood as appointed for those churches only, wherein there is no custom, or statute, whereby the said dignitaries, who do not serve, lose something, which amounts to the third part of the said fruits and proceeds: any customs, even though immemorial, exemptions, and constitutions, even though confirmed by oath or by any authority whatsoever, to the contrary notwithstanding.


Those not initiated into a sacred Order, shall not have a voice in the chapter of any Cathedral or Collegiate Church. The qualifications and duties of those who hold Benefices therein.

Whosoever being employed in the divine offices in a cathedral, or collegiate, Secular or Regular, church, is not constituted in the order of subdeaconship at least, shall not have a voice in the chapter of those churches, even though this may have been voluntarily conceded to him by the others. As to those who possess, or shall hereafter possess, in the said churches, any dignities, personates, offices, prebends, portions, and any other manner of benefices whatever, to which various obligations are annexed, such as, that some shall say, or sing, mass, others the Gospel, others the Epistle, they shall be bound, all just impediment ceasing, to receive the requisite orders within a year, whatsoever may be their privilege, exemption, prerogative, or nobility of birth; otherwise they shall incur the penalties enacted by the constitution of the Council of Vienne, which begins, Ut ii qui, which by this present decree is renewed: and the bishops shall compel them to exercise in person the aforesaid orders on the appointed days, and to discharge all the other duties required of them in the divine service, under the said penalties, and others even more grievous, which may be imposed at their discretion. Nor, for the future, shall any such office be assigned to any but those who shall be well known fully to have already the age and the other qualifications; otherwise such provision shall be null.


Dispensations expedited out of the (Roman) court shall be committed to the Bishop, and be by him examined.

Dispensations, by whatsoever authority they are to be granted, if they are to be consigned out of the Roman court, shall be consigned to the Ordinaries of those who shall have obtained them. And as to those dispensations which shall be granted as graces, they shall not have effect, until the said Ordinaries, as delegates of the Apostolic See, shall have first ascertained summarily only and extra-judicially, that the terms of the petition do not labour under the vice of surreption or obreption.


Last intentions to be altered with caution.

In alterations of last wills,--which alterations ought not to be made except for a just and necessary cause,--the bishops, as delegates of the Apostolic See, shall, before the alterations aforesaid are carried into execution, ascertain, that nothing has been stated in the prayer of the petition, which suppresses what is true, or suggests what is false.


The chapter "Romana," in the sixth (of the Decretals), is renewed.

Apostolic legates and nuncios, patriarchs, primates, and metropolitans, in appeals interposed before them, shall, in all causes whatsoever, as well in admitting the appeals, as in granting inhibitions after an appeal, be bound to observe the form and tenour of the sacred constitutions, and especially of the constitution of Innocent IV., beginning Romana; any custom, even though immemorial, or usage, or privilege, to the contrary notwithstanding; otherwise the inhibitions and proceedings, and all the consequences thereof, shall be ipso jure null.


Bishops shall execute the pious dispositions of all persons; shall visit all manner of pious places, if not under the immediate protection of Kings.

The bishops, even as the delegates of the Apostolic See, shall, in the cases by law permitted, be the executors of all pious dispositions, whether made by last will, or between the living: they shall have a right to visit all manner of hospitals, colleges, and confraternities of laymen, even those which are called schools, or which go by any other name; but not, however, those places which are under the immediate protection of kings, except with their permission; also the eleemosynary institutions, called monts-de-piete, or of charity, and all pious places by whatsoever name designated, even though the aforesaid institutions be under the care of laymen, and though the said pious places be protected by a privilege of exemption; and, by virtue of their office, they shall take cognizance of, and see to the performance,--in accordance with the ordinances of the sacred canons,--of all things that have been instituted for God's worship, for the salvation of souls, or for the support of the poor; any custom, even though immemorial, or privilege, or statute whatsoever, to the contrary, notwithstanding.


Administrators of any pious places whatsoever shall give in their accounts to the Ordinary, unless it be otherwise provided by the foundation.

The administrators, whether ecclesiastical, or lay, of the fabric of any church whatsoever, even though it be a cathedral, as also of any hospital, confraternity, charitable institution called mont-de-piete, and of any pious places whatsoever, shall be bound to give in, once a year, an account of their administration to the Ordinary: all customs and privileges to the contrary being set aside; unless it should happen that, in the institution and regulations of any church or fabric, it has been otherwise expressly provided. But if from custom, or privilege, or some regulation of the place, their account has to be rendered to others deputed thereunto, in that case the Ordinary shall also be employed jointly with them; and all acquittances given otherwise shall be of no avail to the said administrators.


Notaries shall be subject to the examination and judgment of the Bishops.

Whereas the unskilfulness of notaries causes very many injuries, and gives occasion to many lawsuits, the bishop, even as the delegate of the Apostolic See, may, by actual examination search into the competency of all notaries, even though created by apostolic, imperial, or royal authority; and, if such notaries be found incompetent, or on any occasion guilty of a delinquency in the discharge of their office, he may forbid them, altogether or for a time, to exercise that office, in ecclesiastical and spiritual affairs, lawsuits, and causes; nor shall any appeal on their parts suspend the prohibition of the Ordinary.


Usurpers of the property of any Church, or pious places, are punished.

If any cleric, or layman, by whatsoever dignity pre-eminent, be he even emperor or king, should be so possessed by covetousness, that root of all evils, as to presume to convert to his own use, and to usurp,--by himself or by others, by force, or fear, or even by means of any supposititious persons, whether lay, or clerical, or by any artifice, or under any colourable pretext whatsoever,--the jurisdictions, property, rents, and rights, even those held in fee or under lease, the fruits, emoluments, or any sources of revenue whatsoever, belonging to any church, or to any benefice, whether Secular or Regular, monts-de-piete, or to any other pious places, which ought to be employed for the necessities of the ministers (thereof), and of the poor; or (shall presume) to hinder them (in any of the ways aforesaid) from being received by those unto whom they of right belong; he shall lie under an anathema until he shall have wholly restored to the Church, and to the administrator or beneficiary thereof, the jurisdictions, property, effects, rights, fruits, and revenues which he has seized upon, or in whatsoever way they have come to him, even by way of gift from a supposititious person and until he shall, furthermore, have obtained absolution from the Roman Pontiff. And if he be the patron of the said church, he shall, besides the penalties aforesaid, be thereupon deprived of the right of patronage. And the cleric who shall be the author of, or consenting to, any execrable fraud and usurpation of this kind, shall be subjected to the same penalties; as also he shall be deprived of all benefices whatsoever, and be rendered incapable of any others whatsoever; and ever after entire satisfaction and absolution, he shall be suspended from the exercise of his orders, at the discretion of his Ordinary.