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This term comprehends all constructions erected for the celebration of liturgical acts, whatever be the name given to them:-- church, chapel, oratory, basilica, etc. The subject will be treated under the following heads:

I. History
II. Division
III. Erection
IV. Repair and Maintenance
V. Consecration and Blessing
VI. Immunity
VII. Church Fabric

I. HISTORY

In the earliest days of the Christian religion, there were no buildings specially consecrated to Eucharistic worship; the assemblies for liturgical service were held in private houses ( Acts 2:46 ; Romans 16:5 ; 1 Corinthians 16:15 ; Colossians 4:15 ; Philemon 2 ). The assemblies which the first Christians held in the Temple of Jerusalem, in the synagogues or even in hired halls, were assemblies for instruction or for prayer ( Acts 5:12-13 ; 17:1-2 ; 19:9 ). At the end of the second century and even later, during the period of persecution, assemblies for Christian worship were still held in private houses. During this epoch, however, we begin to hear of the domus ecclesiae (the house of the Church ), an edifice used for all the services of the Christian community, in which one apartment was specially set apart for Divine worship. At an early date this apartment took on a special importance. During the third century the other parts of the building were detached from it and the domus ecclesiae became the Domus Dei (the house of God ) known also as the Dominicum or the kyriakon oikon (Duchesne, Origines du culte chrétien, 399-400, Paris, 1902; Wieland, Mensa und Confessio: Studien uber den Altar der altchristlichen Liturgie, Munich, 1906, I, 27-35, 68-73). All such churches were situated in towns, and the inhabitants of the rural districts came thither on the Lord's Day, in order to assist at the Eucharistic Sacrifice ; in large cities, like Rome, Alexandria, and Carthage, there are several churches, but they did not constitute separate parishes (Duchesne, 400; Wieland, 73-76). They depended upon the cathedral church , in which was established the see ( sedes ), or the chair ( cathedra ) of the bishop. There were, however, since the second century, outside the cities, mortuary churches attached to the Christian cemeteries. Here were celebrated the funeral rites, also the anniversary commemorations of the departed, but not the ordinary offices of Divine worship. Sanctuaries were also erected over the sepulchres of the martyrs, and popular devotion brought thither a large concourse of people, not only for the celebration of the anniversary, but at other times as well. The necessity of providing accommodation for these gatherings, as well as the desire to honour the saint, led to the construction of buildings, sometimes large and richly adorned. These churches multiplied when the people began to accord to any relic whatever, to a piece of cloth stained with his blood, to a phial of oil drawn from the lamp that burned constantly before his sepulchre, etc., the veneration at first given only to his burial place. These were the churches of "relics". They prevailed finally to such an extent that today every church must have relics in each of its altars (Duchesne, 402-403). It is almost universally recognized at the present day that only on exceptional occasions did the catacombs serve for ordinary worship even during the times of persecution. They were used solely for funeral services and for the celebration of the festivals of martyrs (Wieland, 81-100).

That churches existed in rural districts as early as the fourth century is undeniable. Priests went thither periodically to administer the sacraments. In the fifth century, however, on account of the increase in the number of the faithful, it became necessary to station resident priests in such districts. This was the origin of parish churches, which were established by the bishops in the most populous districts, the vici , and were known as ecclesiae rusticanae, parochitanae, diocesanae, diocesis, parochia, ecclesiae baptismates, because in these churches only could the Sacrament of Baptism be administered; they were also termed tituli majores to distinguish them from the private churches, or tituli minores (Imbart de la Tour, Les paroisses rurales du IVe au XIIe siècle, Paris, 1900). In addition to these churches of the vici , the owners of the villae or great estates founded churches for their own use and for that of the persons connected with their establishments. Such churches could not be used for Divine worship without the consent of the local bishop, who was wont to exact from the proprietor a renunciation of all rights of possession. The ecclesiastical authority, however, was not long able to resist the proprietors, who from the seventh and eighth centuries retained the proprietary right over the churches they had built. These were called oratoria, basilicae, martyria , or tituli minores , and were in no respect parish churches, because in them baptism could not be administered; moreover, on certain solemn days, the faithful were obliged to assist at Mass in the parish church. Neither did these churches receive any tithes. From the Carlovingian period, however, such private churches gradually became parish -churches. Some authors contend that from that epoch all churches became the private property of the laity, or of convents, or bishops. The ecclesiastical reforms of the eleventh and twelfth centuries brought this condition of things to all end. The Second Lateran Council (1139) commanded all laymen, under pain of excommunication, to resign to the bishops the churches in their possession. ( Mansi, "Coll. Conc." XXI, 529-532; Stutz, "Geschichte des kirchl. Benefizialwesens", Berlin, 1895, I; Hinschius, "System des kath. Kirchenrechts", Berlin, 1878, II, 262-269, 277- 281; Imbart de la Tour, op. cit.) Even within the parishes, for the benefit of the faithful, there were established at various times, chapels which did not enjoy the prerogatives of parish churches, and were more or less dependent upon the latter ( Von Scherer, Handbuch des Kirehenrechtes, Graz, 1898, II, 627). In addition to churches specially intended for the use of the faithful, others known as oratories were erected in the monasteries ; they acquired a greater importance when the majority of the monks were ordained priests, still more when the exclusive privileges of the parish churches suffered diminution. Such oratories were also common in beneficent and charitable institutions. The medieval corporations (guilds) which were also religious confraternities, had sometimes their own special chapels (Viollet, Histoire des institutions politiques de la France, Paris, 1903, III,143-176).

II. DIVISION

Ecclesiastical buildings are usually divided into four classes:

  • churches properly so called,
  • public oratories,
  • private oratories, and
  • semi-public oratories.
This division was confirmed by the Congregation of Rites, 23 January, 1899 (Decreta authent. Congreg sacr. Rit. no. 4007, Rome, 1900). Churches are edifices set apart in perpetuity for the public exercise of Divine worship; such are basilicas, primatial, metropolitan, cathedral, collegiate and parish churches, and lastly the conventual churches of regulars, properly so called. Public oratories are buildings of less importance, definitely given over to Divine worship, and accessible to the public, whether the entrance itself be upon the public road or upon a passage-way leading to the latter. A private oratory is one established in favour of a particular family or even of a single individual. Finally, a semi-public oratory is established for the benefit of a number of people; such is the chapel of a seminary, a college, a congregation of simple vows, a hospital, a prison, etc. With these may be classed the chapels of cardinals and of bishops.

III. ERECTION

Basilicas, cathedrals, collegiate churches, and private oratories, may be erected only with the consent of the Holy See ; other churches or oratories with the consent of the bishop. Nevertheless the authorization given by a bishop to a religious order of solemn vows to establish a monastery in his diocese involves, unless there is a stipulation to the contrary, the right to construct a monastic church. On the other hand all provincial superiors of religious orders have the power to open semi-public oratories for the use of their religious, and that without the authorization of the bishop ( Bull of Gregory XIII , "Decet Romanum", 3 May, 1575, granted to the Society of Jesus and applicable likewise to all religious orders in virtue of the communication of privileges. Cf. Vermeersch, De religiosis institutis et personis, Bruges, 1902, I, 316). For the erection of a private oratory, even by religious, the authorization of the pope is necessary (C.S.R.,10 November, 1906; "Canoniste Contemporain", 1907, XXX, 109, 110). Congregations of simple vows may have but one semi-public or public oratory, with the authorization of the bishop. If they wish to erect several for the convenience of priests or of the infirm, it is necessary to obtain the consent of the Holy see (C.S.R. 8 March, 1879, Decreta, no. 3484).

The erection of every church on the other hand must be justified by its necessity, or by its use; it must not in any way prejudice the rights of churches already established (c. iii, "De ecclesiis aedificandis vel reparandis", X, III, xlviii, c. i, ii, iv, "De novi operis nuntiatione", X, V, xxxii; Friedberg, "Corpus juris canonici", Leipzig, 1881, II, 652, 843). The church should also be sufficiently endowed (c. viii, "De consecratione ecclesiae vel altaris", X, III, xl; Friedberg, II, 634). Practically it is sufficient that the church have at its disposal, e.g. through the gifts of the faithful, the revenues necessary for the maintenance of the building, the celebration of Divine service, and the support of its ministers (Bargilliat, Praelect. jur. can., Paris, 1900, II, 331). In certain countries the consent of the civil power is also needed. The building of a church cannot be begun before the bishop or his delegate has approved of the site, placed a cross there, and blessed the first stone (Pontificate Romanum, Pars II, De benedict. et imposit. prim. lapid. pro eccl. aedif.). The bishop can also reserve to himself the approval of the plans and conditions according to which the church is to be constructed (Wernz, Jus Decretal., Rome, 1901, III, 432, 433. To avoid useless expenditure and to prevent the parish priest from improvidently contracting debts, the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore enacted as a preliminary condition for the construction of a church, the consent of the bishop in writing (Acta et decreta Concilii Plenarii Baltimorensis, III, no. 279). The bishop has power to apply to the construction of his cathedral a part of the revenues, which in certain countries are annually assigned to him from the revenues of the different churches; the cathedral church being the ecclesia matrix , or mother-church of all those of the diocese, its construction is a work which interests the whole diocese (the Eighth Provincial, the Second Plenary, Councils of Baltimore, 1855 and 1866, and the Second Provincial Council of Australia, 1869; "Collectio Lacensis", Freiburg, 1875, III, 162, 429, 1078; also 200-202, 242, 1085). The bishop can even levy a subsidium charitativum for this purpose, i.e a moderate tax upon the revenues of the churches and on those priests who enjoy ecclesiastical benefices. In default of other resources the usual means is to collect money for this object, or to ask the priests of the diocese for voluntary contributions.

IV. REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE

Originally the repairs of the churches were incumbent upon the bishops, as administrators of all ecclesiastical goods. When, according to ancient custom, these goods were divided into four parts, one part was assigined to the Fabrica (see below) i.e. to the church building and its maintenance. Later, each church had its own patrimony, and one part of its goods was assigned to its maintenance. This charge was also incumbent upon the holders of the goods and revenues of the church. The Decretals sanctioned this obligation, at the same time they urged the people to help defray the expenses (c. i. iv, "De ecclesii aedificandis", X, II, xlviii; Friedberg, II. 652, 653). Finally the Council of Trent (Sess. XXI, De ref. c. vii) located more exactly the obligation to repair the parish churches (Permander, Die kirchliche Baulast, Munich, 1890, 1-18). By present ecclesiastical legislation the repairs of the church belong especially to the fabric, which must use the funds appropriated for that special purpose and if need be, its superfluous revenues (c. vi, "De ecclesiis aedificandis"; Friedberg, II, 654; Council of Trent, Sess. XXI, De ref. c. vii). These resources failing, the persons who possess the right of patronage over the church intervene if they wish to preserve their privileges (Canones et decreta conc. Trid. ed. Schulte and Richter, Leipzig, 1853, 121, no. 4). This obligation rests also on all persons who enjoy part of the revenues of the church the tithe-owners, whether laymen or ecclesiastics, seculars or regulars, the parish priest, and all those who enjoy a benefice from the church. The parishioners themselves are bound to provide for the maintenance of the church, each according to his means. In practice collections should be made for this object. These same principles apply to cathedral churches ; in case the revenues of the church are insufficient, the bishop, the chapter, the clergy of the cathedral, and the inhabitants of the diocese ought to contribute for its support (Sägmüller, Lehrbuch des kathol. Kirchenrechts, Freiburg, 1900-04, 798, 799). For the support of his cathedral, as for its erection, the bishop can ask from his clergy a special aid or subsidium charitativum. Wherever these rules have been abrogated by other customs, the latter should be followed. In case of fire, the insurance might cover the damage. Hence special laws may make obligatory the insurance of churches (Acta et Decreta Concilii Baltimorensis III, no. 283). Chapels or churches belonging to congregations of regulars or to particular establishments, ought to be maintained at the expense of these establishments. It sometimes happens that the civil power contributes to the support of churches, as well as to their construction. In reality such co-operation is often only a restitution of ecclesiastical property or revenues misappropriated by the civil government .

V. CONSECRATION AND BLESSING

Churches and oratories cannot be used for liturgical functions, without having first been consecrated or at least blessed. Cathedral and parish churches ought to be consecrated. However, in case of necessity they may be provisionally blessed (Rit. Rom., tit. viii, c. xxvii). Public oratories and other churches may be consecrated, though this is not necessary. They ought, however, to receive a solemn benediction. Private oratories, on the other hand, cannot receive such benediction; it is fitting, however, that the benedictio loci be given to them (op. cit. c. vi.) Some hold that semi-public oratories which in exterior appearance resemble churches or chapels, and which are definitely destined for Divine worship, may be solemnly consecrated (C.S.R., 7 August, 1875, 5 June, 1899; Decreta, nos. 3364, 4025). The custom of dedicating churches to the worship of God by a solemn ceremony is very ancient. In his Ecclesiastical History (X, iii, iv) Eusebius describes the dedication, in 314, of the church erected by Constantine at Tyre, at which time, however, there was no special rite for that purpose. At Rome in the sixth century, the dedication consisted in the public celebration of a solemn Mass, and if it was a church which was to contain relics, these latter were brought to the church in solemn procession. It seems that at the same period, there existed a special rite of consecration in Gaul. In their brief outlines, the present ceremonies are derived from a combination of the rites used in France and in Rome, a combination which had already been made before the beginning of the eighth century (Duchesne, op. cit., 403-418). The consecration or dedication is performed according to the rite prescribed in the "Pontificale Romanum" (De ecclesiae dedicatione seu consecratione) by the bishop, or by a priest delegated for that office by the Holy See. The essential rite of this dedication consisting in the anointing of the twelve crosses upon the walls with holy chrism, and the recitation of the words Sanctificetur , etc. (Wernz, III, 437). It is not permitted to consecrate a church without at the same time consecrating the high altar, or, if this has already been consecrating another fixed altar. If all the altars have been consecrated, it will be necessary to ask the authorization of the Holy See. Without the consecration, however, of an altar, the consecration of the church will not be invalid (C.S.R., 12 August, 1854; 3 March, 1866, 19 May 1896, Decreta, nos. 3025, 3142, 3907). When the public authorities forbid the performance of the prescribed ceremonies outside the church, a pontifical indult must be obtained, except in case of necessity ; such ceremonies must then be performed in the sacristy or some other dependency of the church (C.S.R., 22 February, 1888; Decreta, no. 3687). A church built of wood cannot be consecrated (C. S. R., 11 April, 1902; "Canoniste contemporain", 1902, XXV, 495).

The vigil of the day of consecration is a fast-day of obligation for the bishop and for those who have asked for the consecration of the church (C.S.R., 29 July, 1780, 12 September, 1840; Decreta nos. 2519, 2821; Reply of the Holy Office, 14 December, 1898; "Acta Sanctae Sedis", 1898-99, XXXI, 533). The feast of the dedication must be celebrated every year on the anniversary day of the consecration. The Bishop may, if he chooses, fix another day; but this he should on the very day on which he consecrates the church (C.S.R. 19 September, 1665, 23 May, 1834; Decreta, nos 1321, 2719). While this feast should be celebrated by all the clergy connected with the consecrated church, the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral ought to be celebrated by all the secular clergy of the diocese, and by all the regulars all the episcopal city (C.S.R., 12 September 1884, 9 July, 1895; Decreta, nos. 3622, 3863). If the exact date of the anniversary is unknown, the most probable date should be chosen until such time as the date can be determined with certainty (C.S.R. 14 June, 1608, 13 March, 1649; Decreta, nos. 261, 920). The bishop may fix a day if the right one be completely unknown (C.S.R., 18 August, 1629; 3 March, 1674; 27 November, 1706; 12 March, 1735; Decreta, nos. 511, 1498, 2174, 2313). The Holy See sometimes permits the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral church and of all the churches of the diocese on the same day. All the clergy of the diocese are then bound to celebrate this festival (C.S.R., 29 November, 1878; Decreta, no. 3469).

The solemn benediction is a rite inferior to consecration. It is performed by a priest delegated by the bishop for that purpose (Rit. Rom. tit. viii, c. xxvii). It consists in the sprinkling of the upper and lower parts of the walls of the church with holy water, and in the prayers which accompany this action (Wernz, III, 437). A new consecration or benediction of a church or oratory ought to be made in the case of execration or desecration, that is to say, when the building has lost its consecration or benediction. This is the case when eccleciastical buildings have been definitely put to profane uses (Council of Trent, Sess. XXI, De ref. c. vii.); similarly, in accordance with modern discipline, if almost the entire church or a large portion of the walls have been destroyed or renewed (C.S.R., 14 September, 1875; Decreta, no. 3372). Successive alterations and repairs, however, even though considerable, as also the renewal of the roof, are not to be regarded as execration (C.S.R., 31 August, 1872, Decreta, no. 3269). The consecration affects the entire building, but especially the walls; the removal, therefore, of the anointed crosses or even of the interior plastering (intonaco) of the walls, does not necessitate a new consecration (C.S.R., 13 July, 1883; 19 May, 1896; Decreta, nos. 3584, 3907). The same principles are applicable to churches that have been solemnly blessed this benediction affects the walls rather than the pavement of the church. If, however, the belief was that the benediction attached itself to the pavement the mere destruction of the walls would not have the effect of producing the execration of the church (Wernz, III, 441 442).

Widely different from desecration is the pollutio of a church. This is a defilement of the church which prevents the celebration of the Divine offices until the church has been reconciled or purified. The priest is bound to interrupt the celebration of Mass, if the church in which he is celebrating is polluted before he has commenced the Canon (Missale Romanum, De defectibus in celebratione missarum occurrentibus, X). A church is polluted by every kind of homicide even by a case of capital punishment, or by voluntary suicide committed in the church, but the wound must have been inflicted within the church and, according to some authors, death must have taken place there. A church is likewise polluted when a considerable quantity of blood has been wilfully and culpably spilled within it, or when the effusio seminis humani has taken place, wilfully and in a seriously culpable manner (c. iv, x, De consecratione ecclesiae, X, III xi; Fridberg, II, 634- 635). In like manner also a church is polluted by the burial within it of an infidel, or of a person who has been excommunicated ( excommunicatus vitandus ) (c. vii, loc. cit.; Bargilliat, II, 343-344), not, however, by the burial of catechumens, and perhaps not by that of unbaptized infants born of baptized parents (C.S.R., 23 April, 1875; Decreta, no 3344).

It is important to remark that the reconciliation must be performed only when the pollution has been public. A church that has been solemnly blessed can be reconciled by a priest, according to the ceremonies prescribed in the "Rituale Romanum" (tit. viii, c. xxviii). Many authors, however, affirm that the priest should be delegated by the bishop and the Congregation of Rites has given a decision to the same effect (8 July, 1904, Canoniste Contemporain, 1904, XXIV, 683). A church that has been consecrated can be reconciled only by the bishop, or by a priest delegated by the Holy See, and with water blessed by the bishop. This privilege as has been granted to exempt religious ( Bull of Leo X, "Religionis", 3 February, 1514). The Propaganda grants to bishops in missionary countries the power to delegate to priests the right to reconcile a consecrated church, but the water employed must be blessed by the bishop or, in case of necessity, by a priest (Bargilliat, II, 345, Putzer-Konings, "Commentarium in facultates apostolicas", New York, 1898, 215-217). Sometimes the reconciliation is performed ad cautelam as for instance when a church has been occupied by soldiers for two days (C.S.R., 27 February, 1847; Decreta, no. 2908). This legislation does not refer to oratories which have received only the benedictio loci.

VI. IMMUNITY

Churches enjoy by ecclesiastical law the same immunity from secular burdens and as all ecclesiastical property . The state may not burden them with taxes (Council of Trent, Sess XXV, De ref. c. xx; Syllabus nos. 30, 32). In many states the law recognize this privilege for parish and cathedral churches. Such immunity is very ancient and dates from the Christian emperors of the fourth century (O. Grashof, in Archiv f. kath Kirchenrecht, 1876, XXXV, 3 sqq., 193 sqq.) On the other hand, every irreverence within a church or public oratory is a sacrilege, such as the theft of an article even though it does not belong to the church or an article that has been consecrated (Decretum Gratiani P. II, c xvii, q. 4, c. xxi; Friedberg, I, 820). Such also are the sins of the flesh (Lehmkuhl, Theologia moralis, Freiburg, 1898, I, 238, 239). The reverence due to the holy place forbids all profane actions. Therefore, the following actions are forbidden in a church: trials not falling within ecclesiastical jurisdiction, trading; games, plays and secular songs; banquets; the making of a dwelling either above or below the church; etc. In this category may be included the introduction of draperies and banners which have not been blessed by the Church (Wernz, III, 446). It belongs to the office of the bishop to specify what actions are forbidden in the churches, and to settle the controversies which may arise. The bishop is also empowered to provide for the maintenance of order and may also commit this care to a delegate, for instance, to the parish priest. In connection with this see RIGHT OF ASYLUM.

VII. THE CHURCH FABRIC

By the term Fabrica ecclesiae are to be understood not only the goods belonging to the Church but also the administrators of these goods. Ever since the thirteenth century the laity have been allowed to participate in this administration, and the Council of Trent did not reprove their intervention (Sess. XXII, De ref. ch. ix). The civil power also intervenes in order to regulate the administration of the property of cathedral and parish churches. The following are examples of how the fabrics are organized in certain countries.

In France, Napoleon recognized fabrics of the churches, and entrusted the administration of the property of parish churches to five or nine elected members, to the parish priest, and mayor. These formed the conseil de fabrique. The elective members holding office for six years and eligible for re-election, were chosen by the council itself. These vestrymen had in hand the administration of the temporal property of the church elected from amongst their number a bureau des Marguilliers composed of three members and the parish priest, charged with the ordinary administration and execution of the decisions of the council. The bishop had the right of control over the management of the vestrymen. His approbation as well as that of the State was required for their most important undertakings. The communal authority could control the budgets and the accounts when the fabric asked the former for the necessary funds to defray the expenses of Divine worship, and for the maintenance of ecclesiastical buildings.

The French Municipal Law of 5 May, 1884, ordered that the budgets and accounts should be submitted to the communal council, and freed the commune from the obligation of making up a deficit in the resources of the fabric for ordinary expenses of divine worship. The bishop had the power to organize the fabric of the cathedral church himself, but the administration of its goods was still under the control of the Government (De Champeaux, "Recueil général de droit civil eccelésiastique francais", Paris, 1860; Bargilliat, II, 110-159). This organization, modified, however, by the Constitution of 1831 and by the law of 4 March, 1874, still continues in force in Belgium (De Corswarem, Des Fabriques d'églises, Hasselt, 1904). The Law of 11 December 1905, suppressed the fabrics in France and replaced them by associations cultuelles which Pius X forbade by his Encyclical, "Gravissimo officii" (10 August, 1906; Canoniste contemporain, 1906, XXIX, 572). This law by handing over to seven, fifteen, or twenty-five persons the administration of church property, without making any mention whatever of ecclesiastical control, increases the State's power of interference in the administration of these associations and give it full power to suppress them (Jenouvrier, Expose de la situation légale de l'Eglise de France, d'apres la loi du 11 décembre, 1905, Paris, 1906).

In Prussia the fabrics of the churches were organized by the law of 20 June, 1875, enacted during the Kulturkampf. In each parish ( Kirchegemeinde ) ecclesiastical goods are administered by a body of churchwardens termed Kirchenvorstand under the control of a parish board or Gemeindevertretung. This assembly is not, however, everywhere obligatory. The members of these assemblies are elected by all the male parishioners, who are of age and have resided for at least one year in the parish, pay the ecclesiastical tax, and have their own homes, conduct a business concern, or fill a public office. All electors over thirty years of age are eligible for office with the exception of ecclesiastics and the servants or employees of the church. No man can hold office in both these assemblies. The Kirchenvorstand is composed of members varying in number from four to ten, according to the total number of the population. Since the law of 21 May, 1886 the parish priest ( Pfarrer ) is the president ex officio of this assembly, except in those places in which, before the law of 1875, the presidency was given to a layman. This assembly administers the temporal concerns of the church. The Gemeindevertretung includes three times as many members as the Kirchenvorstand. It is necessary that they should give their consent to the most important acts of the administration of the Kirchenvorstand : the alienations, the acquisitions, the loans, the most important works, taxes ( Kirchensteuer ), etc, and approve the budgets and accounts. The president of the Kirchenvorsiand , or his delegate, assists as a consultor at their meetings. All mandates remain in force for six years. The State and the ecclesiastical authority exercise supreme control over the most important actions of these fabrics (Archiv für katholisches Kirchenrecht, 1875 XXXIV, I67, 1876, XXXV, 161, 1886, LVI, 196, 1887, LVII, 153.

In the French-speaking portion of the Dominion of Canada ( Province of Quebec ) fabrics also exist. Their organization still corresponds, in its main outlines, to the ancient organization of the parishes in France before the Revolution of 1789, as described by Jousse in his "Traité du gouvernement spirituel et temporel des paroisses" (Paris, 1769). There is, first of all, the Parochial Assembly (Vestry) comprising all the Francs-tenanciers of the parish ; no alienation, no loan, can be concluded without their intervention. In case a subscription is necessary they raise it by assessment. The churchwardens actually in office, called marguilliers du Banc , and the former churchwardens, must pay the ordinary expenses. This is the bureau ordinaire of the ancient French law. Finally, ordinary matters of administration are attended to by a commission composed of three members chosen for three years by the old and the newly elected churchwardens. Each one of the three churchwardens is in charge for a year i.e., he performs the functions of treasurer and must render an account to the assembly. The parish priest is president of the fabric and represents the bishop. All the important accounts must be approved of by the latter (Beaudry, "Code des curés, marguilliers, et paroissiens", Montreal, 1870, Gignac, "Compendium juris canonici ad usum cleri Canadensis," Quebec, 1901; Migneault, "Droit paroissial", Montreal (1891)

For other countries, see Sägmüller, "Lehrbuch des katholischen Kirchenrechts" (782, 795). In English speaking countries fabrics properly so called do not exist. In England ecclesiastical property is given in trust to reliable men. The bishops themselves regulate the administration of these goods. In Ireland the trustees are the bishop, the vicar-general, the parish priest and sometimes other reliable persons (First and Second Synod of Westminster, XIV, 4, and VIII,1-21; Provincial Synod of Maynooth, 1875, tit. xxix, nos. 270-277; Collectio Lacensis, III, 926, 980)). In the United States property is often given in trust to the bishop, and in cases where the parishes are civilly incorporated, sometimes the bishop forms the corporation sole; sometimes the administration of the property belongs to a board of trustees composed of the bishop, his vicar-general, the pastor of the church, and two lay trustees ( Taunton, The Law of the Church, London, 1906, 310-317). In accordance with the Third Council of Baltimore (nos. 284-287) the bishop of each diocese judges whether or not it is wise to establish councilmen or a board of trustees; he fixes their number and the mode of their election. They are subject to the authority of the parish priest and the bishop. The relations of the State to church property, especially in English-speaking countries, will be treated in the articles: ECCLESIASTICAL PROPERTY; INCORPORATION; TRUSTEE SYSTEM.


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Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


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