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The Council of Trent

  Twenty Third Session, Decree  



Method of establishing Seminaries for Clerics, and of educating the same therein.

Wereas the age of youth, unless it be rightly trained, is prone to follow after the pleasures of the world; and unless it be formed, from its tender years, unto piety and religion, before habits of vice have taken possession of the whole man, it never will perfectly, and without the greatest, and well-nigh special, help of Almighty God, persevere in ecclesiastical discipline; the holy Synod ordains, that all cathedral, metropolitan, and other churches greater than these, shall be bound, each according to its means and the extent of the diocese, to maintain, to educate religiously, and to train in ecclesiastical discipline, a certain number of youths of their city and diocese, or, if that number cannot be met with there, of that province, in a college to be chosen by the bishop for this purpose near the said churches, or in some other suitable place. Into this college shall be received such as are at least twelve years old, born in lawful wedlock, and who know how to read and write competently, and whose character and inclination afford a hope that they will always serve in the ecclesiastical ministry. And It wishes that the children of the poor be principally selected; though It does not however exclude those of the more wealthy, provided they be maintained at their own expense, and manifest a desire of serving God and the Church. The bishop, having divided these youths into as many classes as he shall think fit, according to their number, age, and progress in ecclesiastical discipline, shall, when it seems to him expedient, assign some of them to the ministry of the churches, the others he shall keep in the college to be instructed; and shall supply the place of those who have been withdrawn, by others; that so this college may be a perpetual seminary of ministers of God. And that the youths may be the more advantageously trained in the aforesaid ecclesiastical discipline, they shall always at once wear the tonsure and the clerical dress; they shall learn grammar, singing, ecclesiastical computation, and the other liberal arts; they shall be instructed in sacred Scripture; ecclesiastical works; the homilies of the saints; the manner of administering the sacraments, especially those things which shall seem adapted to enable them to hear confessions; and the forms of the rites and ceremonies. The bishop shall take care that they be present every day at the sacrifice of the mass, and that they confess their sins at least once a month; and receive the body of our Lord Jesus Christ as the judgment of their confessor shall direct; and on festivals serve in the cathedral and other churches of the place.

All which, and other things advantageous and needful for this object, all bishops shall ordain-with the advice of two of the senior and most experienced canons chosen by himself-as the Holy Spirit shall suggest; and shall make it their care, by frequent visitations, that the same be always observed. The froward, and incorrigible, and the disseminators of evil morals, they shall punish sharply, even by expulsion if necessary; and, removing all hindrances, they shall carefully foster whatsoever appears to tend to preserve and advance so pious and holy an institution. And forasmuch as some certain revenues will be necessary, for raising the building of the college, for paying their salaries to the teachers and servants, for the maintenance of the youths, and for other expenses; besides those funds which are, in some churches and places, set apart for training or maintaining youths, and which are to be hereby looked upon as applied to this seminary under the said charge of the bishop; the bishops as aforesaid, with the advice of two of the Chapter,-of whom one shall be chosen by the bishop, and the other by the Chapter itself, and also of two of the clergy of the city, the election of one of whom shall in like manner be with the bishop, and of the other with the clergy,-shall take a certain part or portion, out of the entire fruits of the episcopal revenue, and of the chapter, and of all dignities whatsoever, personates, offices, prebends, portions, abbies, and priories, of whatsoever order, even though Regular, or of whatsoever quality, or condition they may be, and of hospitals which are conferred under title or administration, pursuant to the constitution of the Council of Vienne, which begins Quia contingit; and of all benefices whatsoever, even those belonging to Regulars, even those which are under any right of patronage, even those that are exempted, that are of no diocese, or are annexed to other churches, monasteries, hospitals, or to any other pious places, even such as are exempted; as also of the revenues devoted to the fabrics of churches, and of other places, and likewise of all other ecclesiastical revenues and proceeds whatsoever, even those of other colleges;-in which, however, there are not actually seminaries of scholars, or of teachers, for promoting the common good of the Church; for the Synod wills that those places be exempted, except in regard of such revenues as may remain over and above the suitable support of the said seminaries;-or of bodies, or confraternities, which in some places are called schools, likewise of all monasteries, with the exception of the Mendicants; also of the tithes in any way belonging to laymen, out of which ecclesiastical subsidies are wont to be paid; and those belonging to the soldiers of any military body, or order, the brethren of Saint John of Jerusalem alone excepted; and they shall apply to, and incorporate with, the said college this portion so deducted, as also a certain number of simple benefices, of whatsoever quality and dignity they may be, or even prestimonies, or prestimonial portions as they are called, even before they fall vacant, without prejudice however to the divine service, or to those who hold them. And this shall have effect, even though the benefices be reserved or appropriated to other uses; nor shall this union and application of the said benefices be suspended, or in any way hindered, by any resignation thereof, but shall still in any case have effect, notwithstanding any way whatever in which they may be vacated, even be it in the Roman court, and notwithstanding any constitution whatsoever to the contrary.

The bishop of the place shall, by ecclesiastical censures, and other legal means, even by calling in for this purpose, if he think fit, the help of the Secular arm, compel the possessors of benefices, dignities, personates, and of all and singular the above-named (revenues), to pay this portion not merely on their own account, but also on account of whatsoever pensions they may happen to have to pay to others, out of the said revenues,-keeping back however a sum equivalent to that which they have to pay on account of those pensions: notwithstanding as regards all and singular the above-mentioned premises, any privileges, exemptions-even such as might require a special derogation-any custom, even immemorial, or any appeal, and allegation, which might hinder the execution hereof. But in case it should happen that, by means of the said unions being carried into effect, or from some other cause, the said seminary should be found to be wholly or in part endowed, then shall the portion, deducted as above from all benefices and incorporated by the bishop, be remitted, either wholly or in part, as the actual circumstances shall require. But if the prelates of cathedrals, and of the other greater churches, should be negligent in erecting the said seminary, and in preserving the same, and refuse to pay their share; it will be the duty of the archbishop sharply to reprove the bishop, and to compel him to comply with all the matters aforesaid, and of the provincial Synod to reprove and to compel in like manner the archbishop, and sedulously to provide that this holy and pious work be as soon as possible proceeded with, wherever it is possible. The bishop shall annually receive the accounts of the revenues of the said seminary, in the presence of two deputies from the Chapter, and of the same number deputed from the clergy of the city.

Furthermore, in order that the teaching in schools of this nature may be provided for at less expense, the holy Synod ordains, that bishops, archbishops, primates, and other Ordinaries of places, shall constrain and compel, even by the substraction of their fruits, those who possess any dignities as professors of theology, and all others to whom is attached the office of lecturing, or of teaching, to teach those who are to be educated in the said schools, personally, if they be competent, otherwise by competent substitutes to be chosen by themselves, and to be approved of by the Ordinary. And if, in the judgment of the bishop, those chosen are not fit, they shall noniminate another who is fit, without any appeal being allowed; but should they neglect to do this, the bishop himself shall depute one. And the aforesaid masters shall teach those things which the bishop shall judge expedient. And, henceforth, those offices, or dignities, which are called professorships of theology, shall not be conferred on any but doctors, or masters, or licentiates in divinity, or canon law, or on other competent persons, and such as can personally discharge that office; and any provision made otherwise shall be null and void: all privileges and customs whatsoever, even though immemorial, notwithstanding.

But if the churches in any province labour under so great poverty, as that a college cannot be established in certain (churches) thereof; the provincial Synod, or the metropolitan, aided by the two oldest suffragans, shall take care to establish one or more colleges, as shall be judged expedient, in the metropolitan, or in some other more convenient church of the province, out of the revenues of two or more churches, in which singly a college cannot conveniently be established, and there shall the youths of those churches be educated.

But in churches which have extensive dioceses, the bishop may have one or more seminaries in the diocese, as to him shall seem expedient; which seminaries shall however be entirely dependent in all things on the one erected and established in the (episcopal) city.

Finally, if, either upon occasion of the said unions, or the taxation, or assignment, and incorporation of the above-named portions, or from some other cause, there should happen to arise any difficulty, by reason of which the institution, or maintenance of the said seminary may be hindered or disturbed, the bishop with the deputies as above, or the provincial Synod according to the custom of the country, shall have power, regard being had to the character of the churches and benefices, to regulate and order all and singular the matters which shall seem necessary and expedient for the happy advancement of the said seminary, even so as to modify or enlarge, if need be, the contents hereof.


Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod of Trent indicts the next ensuing Session for the sixteenth day of the month of September; in which it will treat of the sacrament of Matrimony, and of such other matters, if there be any, relative to the doctrine of faith as can be expedited, as also on provisions for bishoprics, dignities, and other ecclesiastical benefices, and divers articles of Reformation.

The Session was prorogued to the eleventh day of November, MDLXIII.