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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

And intervening to correct abuses


immunities, growing out of

the survival of ecclesiastical jurisdictions of a seigniorial character and out of the relations of the church courts to those of the king and to the royal authority in general. Many of the seigniorial groups were incorporated into the crown, especially by Philip II. As regards the legal immunity of churchmen it came to be accepted as the rule that it could be claimed only in cases within the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts. This was diminished still further by royal invasions of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as by limiting the scope of the church courts, prohibiting (under severe penalties) the intrusions of their judges in civil affairs, and intervening to correct abuses, real or alleged. The king reserved a right of inspection of the ecclesiastical courts, exercised for him by members of the _Consejo Real_ or the _audiencias_, and if anybody were unduly aggrieved by a decision of the church courts he might make use of the recourse of _fuerza_ to bring an appeal before the Consejo Real, the _C?mara_, or the _audiencias_. The effect of this was to suspend the execution of an ecclesiastical sentence, subordinating the church courts to the royal will. Many matters of a religious character were taken over into the exclusive jurisdiction of the _Consejo Real_ or the _C?mara_, such as the inspections of convents of the regular clergy and the action taken as a result thereof and the execution of the decisions of the Council of Trent. Laws relative to the recourse of _fuerza_
were amplified so as to prohibit ecclesiastical judges from trying cases which were considered by any of the litigants concerned as belonging to the civil law; other laws forbade the summoning of Spaniards before foreign judges; and still others diminished the number of appeals to Rome. Even churchmen took advantage of the recourse of _fuerza_ to have their cases removed to the royal courts when it suited their convenience, despite the attempts of the popes to check the practice. In such instances, as in so many others, the _pase regio_ was employed to prevent effectual action by the popes. Even in the case of the provincial councils of the Spanish church the king sent delegates, on the ground that no conventions or congresses of any sort could be held without the consent of the king and the attendance of his representatives. In 1581 Pope Gregory XIII ordered the archbishop of Toledo not to admit anybody to a council about to be held at that time who was not a member of the clergy. Philip II sent his delegate, nevertheless, and his successors followed his example. In like manner religious processions were forbidden unless authorized by the civil authorities.

[Sidenote: The _patronato real_ as a source of royal authority over the clergy.]

The royal authority over the Spanish church is largely explained by the institution of the _patronato real_, or royal patronage. Charles I early gained a right to make nominations to most of the bishoprics and abbacies in Spain, although the pope had to approve before the appointment should take effect. Even in the case of benefices still reserved by the pope the kings insisted that the appointees should be Spaniards. As regards the Americas the church was yet more completely under the king's control, thus giving still other lucrative posts into his power to grant. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the Spanish clergy should favor the king, to whom they owed their rents and dignities, rather than the pope, and should even consent to diminutions in the privileges of Spanish churchmen. Indeed, faithful service as a councillor might be the stepping-stone to a bishopric. Nevertheless the kings did not allow churchmen to intrude in political affairs without being asked, and instances of official reproof on this score were numerous, despite which fact the clergy took a prominent part in political intrigues, and were possibly the principal factor in the Portuguese war of independence from Spain. Furthermore, the solicitation of inheritances by churchmen was insistently forbidden by the king; on one occasion when accusations of this character were made against the Jesuits of Flanders the Duke of Alba annulled all testamentary dispositions to that order and provided for the inheritance of the legal heirs.


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