likewise peculiar to bishops, resulting from the public penances of the excommunicated. The penitent, in order to obtain in whole, or in part, the pardon which he did not merit through the merits of others, sought reconciliation through the appointed confessors; who gave him reconciliation (paz) with a confessorial letter (carta confesoria), in accordance with which the bishop absolved him, and gave him, as a public proof of his indulgence and pardon, a communicatory letter (carta comunicatoria). These indulgences, whether partial or plenary, were dispensed by all bishops, generally through the merits of Jesus Christ and the saints.

It is undoubted that all the dispensations which are now sought at Rome were granted by the Spanish bishops, either with or without a council; whether dispensations of marriage, canonical penance, ordinating under age, relaxation of vows, residence or translation of bishops, union or division of dioceses, and other similar cases. It is certain that for these no recourse was had to Rome for more than one thousand years.

The bishops were also treasurers, administrators, and stewards of all ecclesiastical property in their dioceses, whether cathedral, monastic, parochial, or of any other sort. Inventories of all diocesan property were taken before five witnesses, and an authentic copy of the Church property was given to the nominees at all appointments in the diocese. At the death of every ecclesiastic, priest, abbot, or bishop, these accounts were examined before giving effect to his will.

With regard to episcopal jurisdiction, though all

ecclesiastics were subject to the ordinary civil jurisdiction, they could cite one another only before the bishops' tribunal; the simple clerk before the court of the suffragan bishop, the suffragan bishop before that of the metropolitan, and he before a council or meeting of metropolitans. The ultimate appeal was always to the king. For the first thousand years the Church had neither prisons nor police officers (alguaciles), nor any semblance of criminal or coactive law. For the Spanish Fathers and doctors thought that religion was to be maintained, not by the sword, but by the tongue; not by temporal, but by spiritual castigation. Excommunication, deposition, suspension, degradation; these were the penalties inflicted by the bishops on the guilty. At times, banishment or reclusion in monasteries was the sentence in cases of grave scandal. If these punishments were not submitted to, in these, as in every other cause, the coactive execution did not issue in the name, or on account of (por cuenta de la Iglesia) the Church, but of its royal Protector.

CHAP. V.-The Condition of the Clergy.

The clergy were considered in Spain citizens as well as ecclesiastics. Under the first head they were subjects of the king, amenable to the tribunals, liable to tribute, taxes, and even to defend with their own persons, when necessary, either their religion, country, or king. Considered as ecclesi

astics, they were subject each to his bishop, and were obedient to all his mandates, both as regarded

the temporalities as well as the spiritualities of the Church.

As to the celibacy of the clergy, that the deacon, priest, or bishop, who had married before his ordination once only, might live with his first wife, but might not marry a second, this is the only Apostolic and ancient law in the matter (esta es en el asunto la única ley apostólica y antigua). This was observed in the early Spanish Church, but this law was gradually extended. The prohibition of second marriages was applied to subdeacons, and no other woman but the wife was allowed alone in the house. The widow of an ecclesiastic could not re-marry under any pretext. Next, bishops, priests, and deacons were bidden to abstain from their wives on the days and seasons when they executed their ministry. Then, either

separation or total conjugal abstinence was enforced; lastly, bishops and parish priests professed chastity, which was extended afterwards to all who received the greater orders.

The clergy were anciently allowed to engage in trade, for, when the clergy had wives and children, and the Church as yet had no endowments, a commercial life was more fitting (mas decente) to an ecclesiastic than that of a mendicant or a pauper. This was the state of things in nearly all Europe, according to the degree of civilization in which a commercial life was more or less esteemed in each country. But the Spanish Church carefully watched over this commerce, so that it should interfere neither with the honour nor with the exercise of the ministry. This kind of life, however, lasted a

shorter time in Spain than in any other country, and was brought to an end by the prohibition of marriage as shown above.

Cloistered or common life was introduced first into the cathedrals, when the chapter lived together under a prior, as the "conclave canonical"; and a school was generally annexed to the chapter.

CHAP. VI.-The Monastic State.

There were no cloistered monks in Spain for the first five centuries, only lay hermits and consecrated virgins living in private houses. The Council of Zaragoza, 380, can. vi., states that the sacerdotal state should be preferred to the monastic, and that a monk might aspire to be a clerk, but not a clerk to be a monk. The consecrated virgins were not allowed to make a vow of chastity, nor were they permitted to take the veil under forty years of age. Monasteries began about the year 500, under the arbitrary direction of their respective bishops and abbots; not till sixty or seventy years afterwards did they become subject to a fixed rule. There were three classes in the monasteries: children, called oblatos; novices, called conversos; and religious, called confesos. There existed a few mixed monasteries, but no scandal is on record as having arisen therefrom in Spain.

All monks and nuns were subject to their bishop both in temporal and spiritual things, although there were matters peculiar to their own institution. For more than one thousand years there was in Spain no privilege, Papal, royal, or conciliar, which

could exempt any monastery or monk from obedience to the bishop. With some exceptions as to the rights of the patron, the bishop nominated absolutely all abbots and abbesses without any participation of the monks and nuns. Monks, as well as the other clergy, were subject to the king, and paid all taxes, etc., unless when particularly excused. Monks lived well under this rule, and were frequently consulted by the bishops, and were promoted to parishes, or even to bishoprics.

CHAP. VII.-The Spanish Church during these ages was the most respected of all Churches.

The Spanish bishops were the most distinguished of all in the Councils of Nice and Sardica. The definitions and decrees of the Spanish national councils were adopted by many foreign Churches, and even by Popes in their decretals. Even the method and form of holding these councils were taken from Spanish precedents.

Many pious customs originated in Spain, e.g. the Feast of the Conception of the Mother of God, in the middle of the seventh century; clerical tonsure in the fifth; diocesan seminaries in the sixth and seventh. The addition of the Constantinopolitan Creed to the mass in 519. The Acts of the sixth Ecumenical Council were sent to Spain to be examined. The rite of single instead of trine immersion in baptism was adopted by the Spanish Church, was approved by Gregory the Great,1 and

1 Cf. Gregory's Letter in VI. Canon of Conc. Tolet. iv. It is marked by as large-hearted wisdom as his letters to our own St. Augustine in Bede.

« VorigeDoorgaan »