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Patrem, et Presbyterorum Collegium ut Apostolos.” “Et Diaconos revereamini ut ex Dei præcepto administrantes.” “Sine Episcopo nemo quidquam faciat eorum quæ ad Ecclesiam spectant." But the same St. Ignatius calls the body of the clergy consistorium sacrum, conciliarios et assessores Episcopi ; * and in the passage cited above he speaks of them as the College of Apostles; and St. Jerome says, “Et nos habemus in Ecclesia senatum nostrum, cætum Presbyterorum."
We dwell upon these passages because they refer to very important principles of ecclesiastical polity, which have a direct bearing on our subject. They show the character of the authority exercised by the bishops in the early Church. That authority was essentially different from the authority exercised by temporal sovereigns and civil rulers; and this distinctive character is clearly referred to in the Scriptures as essential to the government of the Church instituted by divine authority. We mean a character of moderation and deliberative prudence totally different from tyranny, or even mere despotism,-a combination of monarchical authority with humility and gentleness, which leads the ruler to distrust his own judgment and seek the advice of others, and to avoid the display of power. It is from analogous principles that the laws of the Church have ever been called not laws, nor edicts—but canons, or rules.
The chief persons in the assembly, or ecclesiastical senate, after the bishop, were the archpresbyter or archpriest, and the archdeacon. They were the heads of the two orders of priests and deacons, and usually held their offices by right of seniority of ordination. The archpriest officiated in the absence of the bishop, and acted as his representative, while the archdeacon was entrusted with the chief management of the funds of the Church. Such are the leading features of the constitution of the Church in the first three centuries.
In the fourth century the increase of the Church, which spread from the cities into the provinces and rural districts, rendered a change necessary. The bishop and his clergy could no longer satisfy the wants of their growing flock. We accordingly find that particular priests were appointed to perform spiritual duties in specified districts away from the bishop's see, and thus only a part of the clergy remained with the bishop, the remainder being scattered about in different parts of the diocese.
* Συνέδριον του επισκόπου.-Philadel. viii. Των πρεσβυτέρων είς τόπον συνεδρίου Tv &TOCTów.—Magn, vi. † Van Esp. eod. tit. viii. cap. i. $ 1; p. 119.
Fleury, Inst. au Droit Eccles. tom. i. c. xviii. p. 160. Van Esp. par, i, tit. vii. cap. i. p. 167.
Out of this change arose the institution of Chapters; for the bishops chose certain persons among the clergy to perform the duties of counsellors, which had formerly belonged to the whole body. But that selection was not fully introduced before the tenth or eleventh century.* Previously to that time, the clergy in the immediate vicinity of the bishop's throne formed his ordinary council, by whose advice he always acted, unless the importance of the matter to be determined required the convocation of a diocesan synod.
The rise of monastic institutions had an important effect on the bodies of secular clergy. In the fourth century, St. Eusebius, travelling through Egypt, saw in that country a community of anchorets living under an abbot, and having all things in common. He was subsequently elected Bishop of Vercelli, in Italy, and he instituted in that city a society of clergy resembling the lay association which he had seen in Egypt, including the archpriest, the archdeacon, and a decanus, or dean. St. Augustine, who at that time taught rhetoric at Milan, heard of this new foundation, and when he became Bishop of Hippo, introduced the monastic mode of life among the clergy of that Church. These two great men thus founded the institution of Canons Regular, whose constitution was afterwards formed and settled by the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle and St. Crodogang.
The societies of canons regular were no more than the adaptation of the ancient episcopal communities to the monastic or ascetic life. The ascetics were chiefly devoted to the contemplative life and the ascetic practices of devotion. To these the canons regular added the discharge of those active duties which belonged to the ecclesiastical senate of the diocese, and the ordinary council of the bishop, preserving their ancient dignitaries, the archpriest and the archdeacon; the latter of whom, however, was usually not a deacon according to the primitive institution of the office, but a priest set over the deacons, and performing the functions of the ancient archdeacon.
From this combination of the monastic system with the ancient ecclesiastical assemblies, arose the introduction of the title of Decanus, or Dean, into the latter. The decanus was originally a chief of ten monks; the subdivision of the anchorets being necessary in the Egyptian monasteries, which were composed of very great numbers of brothers. I But the decanus, or dean, of the capitular bodies was the same person as the archpriest, and presided over those assemblies as the
* Van Esp. par. i. ti'. viii. cap. i. $ 2, p.
ug. † Ibid. tit. vii. cap. i, addit. p. 91, 92.
Reg. Sti Benedicti, cap. 21.
representative of the bishop. He was the head of the priests, and the vice-bishop over them. From these cathedral archpriests and deans were derived the rural archpriests or deans.
While the system of the three first centuries existed, there was but one archpriest, as there was but one bishop, which Van Espen shows from a passage of St. Jerome.* The multiplication of the faithful, however, brought about a change in
The cathedral archpriest could not preside over the whole clergy of the diocese distributed about an extensive tract of country; archpriests were therefore appointed to preside over and direct the clergy in the rural districts. Those officers were called rural archpriests or rural deans. Their functions consisted in the same superintendence over the clergy of the district which was exercised by the cathedral archpriests over the clergy immediately around the bishop.
It is remarkable that after the establishment of the parochial clergy the same system was carried out among them which had existed in the earlier ages. The bishop, in the first centuries, himself directly governed all his clergy. When they increased in numbers he was assisted by the archpriest. When they still further increased, rural archpriests were instituted. The rural archpriest was a vice-bishop—the representative of the bishop in his rural deanery, as the cathedral or urban archpriest was the representative of the bishop and vice-bishop over the urban clergy. Thus the jurisdiction of the bishop was carried by representation into every part of his diocese. Every rural deanery was a diocese in miniature, but without injuring the unity of the authority vested in the bishop, from whom all the ecclesiastical jurisdiction emanated. The rural archpriest was still not the ordinary, but the officer of the bishop, and responsible to him as the great and supreme governor of the Church. These principles are to be found in Canon XII. of the Council of Ravenna, held in the year 904, the text of which (given by Van Espen) we will lay before our readers.
“Ut singulæ plebes archipresbyterum habeant : propter assiduam erga populi Dei curam singulis plebibus archipresbyteri præesse volumus qui non solum imperiti vulgi solicitudinem gerant verum etiam eorum presbyterorum qui per minores titulos habitant, vitam jugi circumspectione custodiant, et qua unusquisque industria divinum opus exerceat, Episcopo suo renuncient, ne obtendat Episcopus non egere plebem archipresbytero. Quod si ipse gubernare valeat qui est valde idoneus, decet tamen ut partiatur onera sua, et sicut ipse matrici præest, ita presbyteri præsint plebibus ut in nullo titubet ecclesiastica sollicitudo." “Cum tamen ad Episcopum referunt ne aliquid contra ejus decretum adjicere presumant.” *
* Epist. ad Rusticum.
A remarkable point in this canon is, that the bishop is required to appoint archpriests even si ipse gubernare valeat. The canon says, decet tamen ut partiatur onera sua. The policy of the Church has ever been, that the bishop should not be overwhelmed with business. The contemplative part of the pontifical character has ever been a matter of solicitude to the ancient councils and fathers. The bishop is the Vicar of Christ. The holy serenity of the pontifical office must, indeed, be maintained; and the bishop must, therefore, be protected from a distressing and engrossing pressure of duties, which would necessarily disturb that serenity, interfere with his practices of contemplation and devotion, and render him unable to exercise his paternal solicitude towards both his clergy and his laity. “Decet ut partiatur onera sua." Thus, in the early ages, the bishop shared the burthens of his office with his whole clergy, and afterwards the law provided him with a variety of officers, whose duty it was to alleviate the burthen of his arduous functions. Under this point of view the institution of rural deans is especially important. It is not merely a matter of convenience for local government, but it has a bearing on the maintenance of the episcopal office in its full sacredness and majesty. And here the reader has an instance of the way in which details of ecclesiastical government, which seem to be mere matters of convenience, are intimately connected with great principles. This shows how important the study of principles is in ecclesiastical public law and government. The study of principles is very important in temporal affairs; but it is still more so in spiritual government, for this reason--because the standard of spiritual government is far higher than any human practice. That standard is to be sought in abstract truth, because experience must fall short of its excellence. It must be discovered by the investigation of principles à priori, and not by experience and practice, though experience and practice are necessary for the safe application of those principles to any given state of circumstances. Yet we constantly see ecclesiastical legislation carried on, not only without investigation of principles, but without the guidance of experience. We see contrivances devised pro re nata, by mere ingenuity. May the Church be speedily delivered from such crude and dangerous innovations! But let us return to our subject.
Mr. Dansey has collected the chief authorities relating to the distinction between urban or cathedral archpriests and rural archpriests, and we will now lay them before the reader as a specimen of the industry of the learned author.
* Van Esp. par. i. tit. vi. cap. i. addit, p. 83.
“ • Urbani dicuntur, (in the words of Duarenus,) qui in urbe et in majori ecclesia officio suo funguntur. Cum enim episcopus propter absentiam forte vel occupationes suas non possit omnia episcopi munia vel solus vel una cum presbyteris obire, sed curas suas cum eis partiri necesse habeat; utilius visum est ex presbyteris unum cæteris præponere qui ea quæ ad presbyterorum officium pertinent partim ipse exequatur partim aliis facienda prescribat; quam omnibus simul presbyteris id committere ne contentio aliqua inter ipsos ex communione administrationis orietur. .... Archipresbyteri vicani nullam in urbe potestatem nullum ministerium habent sed in majoribus celebrioribusque pagis constituuntur. Ac singulis præter ecclesia propriæ curationem certarum ecclesiarum certorumque presbyterorum qui videlicet per majores titulos habitant, inspectio, observatioque committitur.' See also Morin. de Sacris Ordinationibus, par. iii. Exercit. xvi. cap. ii. 23, p. 215. Boehmer. Jus. Eccles. Protestant, tom. i. lib. i. tit. xxiv. pp. 582-3. And Morisan, de Protopapis, cap. vii. p. 104, where the twofold distinction is extended to the Greek as well as to the Latin Church :-quemadmodum in occidentali ecclesia archipresbyterorum duo genera erant quorum alii quidem quos urbanos dicebant cathedralibus ecclesiis incardinati essent; alii vero quos rurales rusticos forenses pogunos vicanos cognominabant pagorum presbyteris post sublatum præsertim usum chorepiscoporum ita mandato episcopi præessent ut plebis capita parochique constituerentur : haud secus in ecclesia Græcâ præter cathedralium protopapas seu primos post episcopum in ecclesia cathedrali presbyteros in numeri occurrunt horum protopape et plebium curiones.'
“ The distinction here made is the popular one generally received; but Bishop Kennett's is somewhat different,* though he refers to Duarenus as his authority. Severing altogether the cathedral archipresbyters from the deans rural of his interesting episode, the parochial antiquary says of the latter, These deans were constituted over a certain number of churches within a large city, and were then called decani urbani and ricani, or else over the like extent of country churches, and were then strictly called decani rurales, Gibson, too,t applies urbani in the same limited sense to the exclusion of cathedral deans, but vicani he uses as a synonyme of rurales.
“Upon this view, the reader will perceive that urban and vican deans were merely rural deans set over parochial churches and their incumbents in urbe or in vico, distinct from cathedral deans, whose presidency was only over persons. But I prefer the popular notion of Bishop Atterbury (no very high authority in these matters), because it is supported by the Summa Silvestrina, fol. xxxix. (which makes the archipresbyter civitatensis the same as ecclesiæ cathedralis qui alio nomine dicitur decanus), and by such learned canonists as
Paroch. Antiq. vol. ii. p. 339.
+ Codex I. E. A. tit. xlii. cap. viii.