Page images
PDF
EPUB

faithful. None were ordained but by the approbation, or rather the nomination of the people, the bishop being to examine into the worth and qualifications of the persons so nominated. In the first ages, which were times of persecution, it is not to be supposed that ambition or corruption could have any great influence, while a man in holy orders was as it were put in the front, and exposed to the first fury of the persecutors. So that what Tertullian says f on this head will be easily believed, " that those who pre“ sided over them were first tried; having obtained that

honour, not by paying a price for it, but by the testimony that was given of them; for the things of God

were not purchased by money;" he alluding probably to the methods used by the heathens to arrive at their pontifical dignities.

But as soon as wealth and dignity was, by the bounty of Christian emperors, made an appendix to the sacred function, then we find great complaints made of disorders in elections, and of partiality in ordinations, on which we see severe reflections made by the best men both in the eastern and western churches. They not only condemned the purchasing elections and holy orders with money, but all the train of solicitations and intercessions, with all flattery and obsequious courtship in order to those things.

They indeed laid the name of simony chiefly on the purchasing of orders by money, which was attempted by Simon of Samaria, commonly called Simon Magus; but they brought other precedents to shew how far they carried this matter. Balaam's hire of divination, Gehazi's going after Naaman for a present, and Jeroboam's making priests of those who filled his hands E, are precedents much insisted on by them, to carry the matter beyond the case of a bargain beforehand; every thing in the way

of

practice to arrive at holy orders was all equally condemned. When things were reduced into methodical divisions, they reckoned a threefold simony; that of the hand when money was given, that of the mouth by flatteries, and that of service, when men by domestic attendance and other employments did, by a temporal drudgery, obtain the spiritual dignity.

Chrysostom h expresses this thus: “ If you do not give

money, but instead of money, if you flatter; if you set “ others at work, and use other artifices, you are as guilty.”

Apology.

& 2 Chron. xiii. 9.

h Hom. in Acta Ap.

see

[ocr errors]

66

Of all these he adds, that “as St. Peter said to Simon, “ Thy money perish with thee, so may thy ambition perish o with thee." St. Jerom i says,

66 We

many

reckon “orders as a benefice, and do not seek for persons who may

be as pillars erected in the house of God, and may “ be most useful in the service of the church; but they do

prefer those for whom they have a particular affection,

or whose obsequiousness has gained their favour, or for “ whom some of the great men have interceded; not to “ mention the worst of all, those who, by the presents they “ make them, purchase that dignity."

A corruption began to creep into the church in the fifth century, of ordaining vagrant clerks, without any peculiar title; of whom we find St. Jerom oft complaining. This was condemned by the council of Chalcedon in a most solemn mannerk.The orders of all who were or“ dained presbyters, deacons, or in the inferior degrees, “ without a special title either in the city, in some village,

some chapel or monastery, are declared null and void : and, to the reproach of those who so ordained them, they are declared incapable of performing any function.” But how sacred soever the authority of this council was, it did not cure this great evil, from which many more have sprung.

A practice rose, not long after this, which opened a new scene. Men began to build churches on their own grounds, at their own charges, and to endow these; and they were naturally the masters, and, in the true signification of the Roman word, the patrons of them. All the churches in the first matricula were to be served by persons named to them by the bishop, and were to be maintained by him out of the revenue of the church; but these were put upon another foot, and belonged to the proprietors of the ground, to the builders, and the endowers'. They were also to offer to the bishop a clerk to serve in them. It seems they began to think, that the bishop was bound to ordain all such as were named by them: but Justinian m settled this matter by a law; for he provided that the “ pa“ triarch should not be obliged to ordain such as were no“minated by the patron, unless he judged them fit for it." the reason given is, that “ the holy things of God might “not be profaned n.” It seems he had this in his eye, when by another law he condemns those who received

k Can.

i In Esai.
m Novel. 57. c. 2.

Fundus, ædificatio, et dos. n Nov. 6. c. 1.

any thing for such a nomination ; for so I understand the patrocinium ordinationis.

The elections to most sees lay in many hands; and to keep out not only corruption, but partiality, from having a share in them, he by a special law required, “ that all per

sons, seculars as well as ecclesiastics, who had a vote in

elections, should join an oath to their suffrage, that they “ were neither moved to it by any gift, promise, friendship,

or favour, or by any other affection, but that they gave “ their vote upon their knowledge of the merits of the person

no.” It will easily be imagined that no rule of this kind could be much regarded in corrupt ages.

Gregory the Great is very copious in lamenting these disorders, and puts always the threefold division of simony together, manus, oris, et ministerii P. Hincmar cites the prophet's words, He that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes 9; in the Vulgar it is, from every bribe ; applying it to three sorts of simony. And in that letter to Lewis the Third, king of France, he protests," he knew no kinsman “ nor friend; and he only considered the life, learning, and “ other good qualities necessary to the sacred ministry.” Those ages were very corrupt; so that the great advantages that the popes had, in the disputes concerning the investitures into benefices, were taken from this, that servile obsequiousness and flatteries were the methods used in procuring them. Of which it were easy to bring a great and copious proof, but that it is needless.

I shall only name two provisions made against all these sinistrous practices: one was among us in a council at Exeter', in which this charge is given; “Let all men look “ into their own consciences, and examine themselves with “ what design they aspire to orders; if it is, that they may “ serve God more virtuously and more acceptably; or if it “ is for the temporals, and that they may extort benefices “ from those who ordain them; for we look on such as si“moniacs.” In the council of Basil s, in which they attempted the restoring the freedom of elections, as a mean to raise the reputation of the sacred function, they appointed that an oath should be taken by all electors, " That

they should not give their voice for any who had, as

they were credibly informed, endeavoured to procure it “ to themselves, either by promising or giving any tem

poral thing for it, or by any prayer or petition, either by

9 Isa. xxxiii. 15.

Nov. 137. c. 2.
Synod. Exon. 1287. cap. 8.

p Tom. 2. 195.

s Sess. 12.

r

“themselves, or by the interposition of any other; or by

any other way whatsoever, directly or indirectly.” This would

go as far, as those who took it considered themselves bound by an oath, tò secure elections from corruption or practice.

I will go no further to prove, that both fathers and councils, in their provisions against simony, considered the practice of application, importunity, solicitations, and flatteries, as of the same nature with simony: and therefore, though our law considers only simony, as it is a bargain in which money or the equivalent is given or promised, yet the sense of the church went much further on this head, even in the most corrupt ages. The canon law does very often mention simony in its threefold distinction, manus, lingue, et obsequii ; it being still reckoned a duty both in the giver and receiver, that the gift should be free and voluntary.

In the church of Rome a right of patronage is, according to their superstition, a matter of great value; for in every mass the patron is to be remembered by a special collect, so that it saves them a great charge in a daily mass said for them. To us this effect ceases; but still it is a noble piece of property, since a patron has the nomination of him that has a care of souls committed to him. But as it is in itself highly valuable, so a great account is to be given for it, to him who made and purchased those souls, and in whose sight they are of inestimable value, and who will reckon severely with such patrons as do not manage it with a due care.

It is all one what the consideration is on which it is bestowed, if regard is not in the first place had to the worth of the person so nominated ; and if he is not judged fit and proper

to undertake the cure of souls : for with relation to the account that is to be given to the great Bishop of souls, it is all one whether money, friendship, kindred, or any carnal regard, was the chief motive to the nomination.

I know it may be said, no man but one in holy orders is capable of being possessed of a benefice, and in order to that he is to be examined by the bishop, though already ordained, before he can be possessed of it: but the sin is not the less, because others come in to be partakers of it. Still a patron must answer to God for his share, if he has nominated a person without due care, and without considering whether he thinks him a proper person for undertaking so great a trust. I will not carry this matter so far as to say, that a patron is bound to choose the fittest and most deserving persons he can find out: that may put him under great scruples ; and there being a great diversity in the nature of parishes, and in the several abilities necessary for the proper duties of the pastoral care, it may be too great a load to lay on a man's conscience an obligation to distinguish who may be the fittest person. But this is very evident, that a patron is bound to name no person to so important a care as the charge of souls, of whom he has not at least a probable reason to believe that he has the due qualifications, and will discharge the trust committed to him. Some motives may be baser than others; but even the consideration of a child to be provided for, by a cure of souls, when the main requisites are wanting, is in the sight of God no better than simony. For in the nature of things it is all one, if one sells a benefice, that by the sale he may provide for a child, and if he bestows it on a child, only out of natural affection, without considering his son's fitness to manage so great a trust. Perpetual advowsons, which are kept in families as a provision for a child, who must be put in orders, whatever his aversion to it or unfitness for it may be, bring a prostitution on holy things. And parents, who present their undeserving children, have this aggravation of their guilt, that they are not so apt to be deceived in this case, as they may be when they present a stranger. Concerning these they may be imposed on by the testimony of those whom they do not suspect; but they must be supposed to be better informed as to their own children.

It is also certain, that orders are not given by all bishops with that anxiety of caution that the importance of the matter requires. And if a person is in orders, perhaps qualified for a lower station, yet he may want many qualifications necessary for a greater cure: and the grounds on which a presentation can be denied are so narrow, that a bishop may be under great difficulties, who yet knows he cannot stand the suit, to which he lies open, when he refuses to comply with the patron's nomination.

The sum of all this is, that patrons ought to look on themselves as bound to have a sacred regard to this trust that is vested in them, and to consider very carefully what the nature of the benefice that they give is, and what are the qualifications of the person they present to it; otherwise the souls that may be lost by a bad nomination, whatsoever may have been their motive to it, will be required at their hands.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »