« PreviousContinue »
VOLUME XIII. JANUARY-MARCH, 1870
STRAHAN AND CO., PUBLISHERS
THE CONTEMPORARY REVIEW.
THE ROMAN CURIA.
SHREWD Isaac Barrow long ago remarked of the government of w the Church, that “ political unity doth not well accord with the nature and genius of the evangelical dispensation.” Supposing the management of the Church to be committed to an ecclesiastical monarch, it must become a worldly kingdom, supported by the same means and engines, the same methods and arts, whereby secular governments are maintained. It must have its pomp and phantastry, its tributes and taxes, its coercive authority, its guards to preserve its safety and authority, its wars of self-defence or self-interest, its subtleties and politic artifices, and (he concludes) it must “erect judicatories and decide causes with formality of legal process; whence tedious suits, crafty pleadings, quirks of law and pettifoggeries, fees and charges, extortion and barretry, will necessarily creep in.”
And all these things, he says, have been actually realized in the Papacy. The Bishop of Rome has become a monarch in external splendour surpassing all worldly princes, crowned with a triple crown; he assumes the most haughty titles; he has such outward respect paid him as is claimed by no secular prince; he has a court and a train of courtiers; he is “encompassed with armed guards,
Switzers,' he has a great revenue, and many nations of Christendom gian under his imposta; he has raised numberless wars and com. moins, and res “ depth of policy" to advance his designs; he has enacted volumes of laws and decrees; and “ he draweth grist from ail parts to his courts of judgment, wherein all formalties of suspense, all the tricks of squeezing money, &c., are practised, to the great troable and charge of parties concerned."*
The picture which Barrow draws, which is not altogether a pleasant one, is probably not an unfair representation of the state of things in his own time; the accumulation of boards and offices about the central power of Roman Catholicism was even then a serious evil, and it is an evil which has not diminished with time, but rather increased with the extension of the Roman Church, and the constant tendency to centralization. This complex system, which has grown up about the Pope for the transaction of the multifarious business which flows in upon the Holy See, is called the Roman “Curia.” Strictly the term only applies to the machinery which serves for the business of the Primacy of the Holy Father; but in a wider sense it designates the whole mase of officials and commissions forming the judicial and administrative organization of the Papacy, in whatever capacity. For, in truth, the ecclesiastical and the political administration of the Pope are so intertwined, and the different branches of the ecclesiastical adroinistration so overlap each other, that it is impossible to describe the Papal Government in one aspect without involving some consideration of the whole. The curial organization has to provide for the Papal administration of a diocese, a province, a temporal sovereignty, and the primacy of so much of the Church an acknowledges the spiritual sway of Rome; for the Pope has become, in the course of centuries, a highly composite person. He is, in the first place, Prince-Bishop of Rome,—that is, not merely Bishop of Rome in respect of spiritual jurisdiction, but also, in right of his bishopric, sovereign of a certain territory, the States of the Church ; he is archbishop of a province containing six sees; lastly, he is Primate of the whole of the Roman Church. Now the organizations which serve his Holiness in his several capacities have not been formed deliberately, and by one presiding intelligence, with a view to the harmonious working of the whole; they have grown up under the force of circumstances, and consist of a great number of courts and offices, formed or developed to meet particular circumstances. Here an ecclesiastical official has acquired the management of a branch of the temporal sovereignty; there a secretary of state has encroached on the spiritual concerns of the Primacy; here a tribunal, intended for the world, has shrunk to the dimensions of a Roman
• Barrow on "The Unity of the Church,” c. viii. c. 7.
court of law; there what was originally an institution of the bishopric has developed into an important office of the Primacy. In short, in order to give any conception of the Roman Curia proper, the administration of the Primacy, it is necessary to attempt some brief account of the system of Roman administration generally.*
The nucleus of all this organization, which serves the Pope in his various capacities, is the system which, in the first instance, was formed about him as Bishop of Rome. The Presbytery, which in early times surrounded the bishop, formed a council not merely for purely diocesan business, but for the conduct of matters connected with the Primacy. Matters not of the first importance the Pope transacted privately, “ in capella,” with the help of his chaplains, who últimately formed the “Rota.” The business of the Papal Chancery, in the drafting of the necessary documents, was managed by notaries under the control of a “Primicerius.” This state of things existed at the beginning of the eighth century, and of the manner in which the business of the Roman Court was then transacted we have a monument in the "Liber Diurnus Pontificum Romanorum,”+ the Day-book of the Roman Popes; a collection of the “common forms” at that time in use in the Papal Chancery. Here we find, for instance, the proper formula for beginning and concluding letters to emperors and other exalted persons; forms used in the election of popes, and in the bestowal of the Pallium ; commissions to bishops, and the like. The date of this book is not later than 752, for forms of address to Exarchs | are inserted, which would not have been the case after the capture of Ravenna by Astolph in that year.
The organization of the bishopric of Rome has gone through much the same process of development as that of other ancient sees; that is, the two principal members of the presbytery, the archdeacon and the archpresbyter, have acquired an independent status, while the presbytery has become mainly an electoral chapter, with co-ordinate power in certain matters. This presbytery is in Rome called the College of Cardinals("collegium incardinatorum,” or “cardinalium ”), a name once common to many ancient chapters, first limited to that of Rome by Pius V. The archdeacon, who even in the “Liber Diurnus" appears as the most powerful official of the Presbytery, has developed into the Cardinal-Camerlengo, or Chamberlain, and has acquired the control of finance and the administration of justice in
* The authorities for the statements which follow are, an Essay on “ The Roman Curia," by Dr. O. Mejer, in Jacobson and Richter's Zeitschrift für das Recht und die Politik der Kirche, Nos. 1 and 2; the article “ Curie,” by the same author, in Herzog's Real- Encyclopädie (iü. 204, ff); and the article “Curia Romana " in the Freiburg Kirchenlexicon (Roman Catholic), ii. 944, ff. + Reprinted in Migne's Patrologia, tom. 105. Liber Diurnus, cap. i. tit. iv.