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The Royal Placitum, or Placet, is ical organization, ambitious of suone of the protean shapes in which preme dominion. Perhaps it was the State Almighty of our day pre- in view of this last consideration, tends to interfere in the government that the Royal Placitum or Exof the Church, to her no trifling vex- equatur was excogitated. We puration. We beg leave to introduce pose to examine its nature and origin, the reader to the arrogant enormity, and having accomplished this much, apprising him, at the same time, by we shall have also established how way of explanation for the unpleasant illegitimate is its existence, and how introduction, that the time has come not inapposite the appellation we when Catholics should make them- gave it in the beginning, an arrogant selves conversant with many things enormity. Let us examine the etyaffecting the Church, which hitherto mology of the terms. Placitum is a formed the exclusive knowledge of Latin word, signifying that which is the clergy. But the world is on the agreeable, pleasant, and comes from inquiry now, and though it pro- the verb placeo, I please; whence fesses to be very materialistic, yet it placet, he, she, or it pleases. It is dabbles in theology and everything the old Latin form, used to signify therewith connected, proximately assent to any proposition. The word and remotely. Our dogmas are scru- exequatur literally means, let him tinized, our ecclesiastical history con- act, or, in the case here at issue, let ned over attentively, and our dis- it take effect. ciplinary canons carefully examined, Bernard Van Espen, a notorious not for the instruction of the people, Jansenist of the eighteenth century, but for the destruction of the Church. and a cringing regalist, may be reThe secular powers especially take garded as the parent of the Royal an obtrusive interest in ecclesiastical Placitum or Placet. He defines his matters, some in virtue of the as- offspring as the faculty which the sumption that the Church is a de- civil authority grants to Pontifical pendency of the State, others, that Bulls and Briefs, and to all the other she is a mere abstraction, and all of acts of the ecclesiastical authority, to them that she is a dangerous polit- take effect within its dominions. To
this he subjoins a definition of the covering the seal of the Fisherman's right of the Placitum. He calls it, Ring with that of the king. Nay the right of defence against the at- more, for the infliction of such an tempts of the Church, naturally re- outrage the ecclesiastical authorities siding in the political authority, by must present a formal petition to the virtue of which it declares without government, written on stamped effect those Pontifical Bulls and paper, which is doubly taxed by the Briefs, and any other act whatever addition of an internal revenue of the ecclesiastical authority, to which stamp. It is thus in Italy. the above-mentioned faculty has not This much premised on the disbeen granted. This zealot for royal tinction of terms, we can proceed prerogatives went so far as to apply to examine the nature of the Placithe Placitum even to the dogmatical tum. Its nature is in this, that no act constitutions of the Roman Pontiffs. of the ecclesiastical authority which Theoretically there is no distinction is to affect the public can have effect between the Placitum and the Ex- unless the secular authority permits. equatur. They are one and the same Cardinal Tarquini very aptly comin principle. Practically, however, pares the Church in this predicathe Exequatur is the more aggravat- ment to Lazarus in his grave-vesture, ing insult of the two to the divine when the power of God had evoked authority and independence of the him from the sepulchre. He was Church. We will instance this dis- bound hand and foot, and awaited tinction, and we cannot better do so the charity of the bystanders to unthan by examining the Placitum in swathe him, before he could begin action. When the Roman Pontiff to make use of or enjoy the life appoints a Bishop, the right of the given back to him. The Placitum Placitum exacts from him that he binds the Church hand and foot, and present the Bulls of appointment to gags her mouth, so that she cannot the civil authorities of the place be- even mutter, until she appear before fore he takes possession, or exer- the pursy and conceited syndic of a cises any of his functions. Should village, to ask, by her abject appearhe neglect or refuse to do this, not ance and downcast eyes, the power only is he deprived of his benefices, of speech. The basis or foundation but the law will not recognize any of of the Placitum is conceived by the his acts, say the appointment of a regalists to be a natural right against parish priest, and hence, neither the the attempts of the Church. They acts of the latter, which have any very frequently call it the Jus cavendi reference to the civil department, the right to beware-against the such as marriages and baptisms. The Church! There is more fiendish evil to be avoided was sufficiently malice couched in that phrase, Jus great to induce the Holy See to cavendi, than in the fiery edicts of a tolerate the presentation of the Bulls Nero, a Diocletian, or a Caracalla, to the lay authorities. These, for proclaiming the extirpation of the the most part, contented themselves Christians. Her situation is the with recognizing the authenticity of worst that can be conceived. She the pontifical acts, which came to be is suspected—not unlike the reclinregarded as the credentials, so to say, ing Cerberus, who blinks peaceably of the newly-appointed bishop, or enough, indeed, from a doorstep at ordinance proclaimed. But the Ex- the passers-by, but whose character equatur is still more exacting. Not is declared to them in the damning only must the Papal Bulls, Briefs, inscription beside him, Cave canem ! and ecclesiastical acts be submitted —or like one of those bulls that were to the secular authorities, but the in- driven around the walls of ancient tolerable indignity is superadded of Rome, with their great horns swad
dled in hay, and supporting between That which is natural to any being them the flaming classic placard: begins to exist with it, ceases to exist HVNC TV, ROMANE, CAVE TO! (Ro- with it. The natural rights of man man, look out for this fellow ! A cannot be alienated. They are atstrange situation for the worthy tributes of his manhood. Violence spouse of the meekest of men ! “But may interfere with their exercise, but that you may perceive more clearly" no power of earth can hinder their -we are quoting the illustrious Tar- existence. It is the same with the quini," the nature of the Placitum, right of any constituted society, with place before your eyes the mother, any government having a legitimate of a family, living at home with her existence. If; then, this right of the children. For to nothing better Placitum is natural to governments, than the mother of a family can the we ought to be able to find traces of Church be compared. Such indeed it away back at the beginning of conshe is. By her side you behold her stituted secular authority, or at least, children, into whose ears and hearts at the beginning of the Church's.exthe icy spirit of this discipline of the istence. But the historian will seek Placitum is assiduously insinuating in vain through the course of fouritself; hence their minds are per- teen centuries for anything bearing petually beset with diffidence in this the remotest resemblance to the domestic shadow; hence with fear* Royal Placitum. Tarquini says, that and trembling they behold every ges- the Royal Placitum sprang from an ture, every movement of their mother association of ideas, and in explanaDoes she sit at table and present a tion of this, he cites a passage from cup to her offspring ? Beware, lest it the Bull of Pope Martin V, quod be mixed with poison. Does she call antidota, which narrates that “Urban her children about her to advise VI (1378-1389) had granted to them? Prick your ears, consider certain prelates, that in their cities every word; evil designs may lurk and dioceses some apostolic letters couchant underneath. Does she em- could not be carried into execution brace her offspring ? O fly from her; unless such letters be first presented she has a dagger concealed under her to the prelates themselves, or to their gown ! Not unlike a man with a sus officials, and approved by thein." picious countenance, who enters at a This approval was called Vidimus city gate. He is interrogated, his (we have seen), or Placet. It is passport is examined, his person hardly necessary to observe, that searched, and he is finally brought this cannot be cited as an example before the magistrate, and all this of the Placitum in its modern quidfor the safety of the State; so the 'dity. It may be called an eccleChurch, our mother, according to siastical Placitum. However, it sugthe theory of the Placitum, being gested the idea of the Royal Placitum open to suspicion, as who should which appeared in France in the plot for the destruction of her own year 1381, when the Duke of Anvers, children, must be carried before the then administrator of the realm, authorities as often as she publishes ordered the imprisonment of the anything for the government of her Rector of the University of Paris, flock-that the meal of the empire because he permitted the letters of be provided for, forsooth !”
Pope Urban Yi, which called the The advocates of the Royal Placi- refractory duke to obedience, to be tum consider it as a right, naturally read in public. This example of inherent in the secular authority. the Placitum, however, has one very Now if it be naturally inherent in, it extenuating circumstance connected must, of necessity, be co-original and with it; the act of prohibiting the coexistent with the secular authority. reading of the Pontifical letters is not to be attributed to a sacrilegious May, 1665, a decree was promulgated ambition of the Duke of Anvers to establishing the Placet. From France hamper the action of the Church, the innovation spread into Savoy, and but rather to a laudable zeal in appeared in a royal edict, dated June preserving her unity, for he regarded 6th, 1719-an edict which Clement Urban VI as an antipope, as did XI condemned immediately in the nearly all France at that time. A celebrated Bull Apostolatus. OfGersimilar instance is narrated of Martin, many, Jung writes, that no traces of King of Sicily, who, before setting the existence of the Placitum can be out to Aragon in 1405, gave orders found anterior to the seventeenth that no Pontifical Bull or Brief or century, and these are so languid and letter should be allowed to go into uncertain, that they can only be execution, until it had been seen and termed the mere Shadows of the approved by the queen. But he too Placitum. He concludes that no regarded Pope Boniface IX as an positive instance can be found before intruder, and not as the legitimate the days of the Royal Sacristan, successor to the Pontifical throne. Joseph II. Spain, under Philip V, We pass over a similar example in furnishes us with the next instance. France in 1399, in which not only He found, however, a valiant opthe secular authority, but the clergy ponent in the illustrious Cardinal also were implicated, and another in Belluga. This worthy follower of Lusitania, about the same time, both the great Osius appeared one day of which bear reference to a number before the king, and said: “It is not of spurious Bulls and Pontifical con- lawful for thee," and with characterstitutions, which were being pub- istic clearness he proved his assertion. lished to the no little scandal and Then approaching the throne, he detriment of the faithful. For a tapped it gently, and said in a genuine example of the Royal Placi- whisper, “Non expedit tibi”-it is tum we must come down to the not expedient for thee—and he profifteenth century, when John II, King ceeded to show from history how of Portugal, established, that the the Lord never permitted his Spouse apostolic letters should not be pub- to be insulted with impunity. Spain lished in his kingdom before they herself, in the thousand vicissitudes had received the approbation of his which harassed her from the first chancellor. He received a severe day of her pretending to interfere in rebuke for this interference, first from church matters, bore the marks of Pope Sixtus IV, and afterwards from God's vengeance about her. TurnInnocent VIII, in his Brief Olim, ing our eyes to Belgium in the dated February 30, 1486. He re- eighteenth century, we encounter the ceived it like a docile son of the figure of Van Espen with the edicts Church, and revoked his order. The of Guicciardini in his hand, the next example of the Placitum is at- which, quoth he, establish the fact, tributed to the Duke of Complutum, that the Placitum is of ancient exwho promulgated the examination istence, and founded in truth and of the apostolic letters at Naples in justice. A true Jansenist, he was a 1561. He was excommunicated by court sycophant, a creature who, in St. Pius V. Though he gave his these days of Reptile Funds, would submission afterwards, and abrogated be regaled with the daintiest cates the Placitum, still the evil had taken at the banquets of ministerial incensesuch deep root that it continued to bearers. He explored ecclesiastical show itself from time to time in the antiquity in search of monuments kingdom of Naples down to the attestative of the legitimacy of what present century. From Naples we ambitious royalty itself had hitherto pass to France, where, on the 6th of regarded as an abortion. He only
evoked skeletons of precedents, com- How canst thou say that to thee it mentitious documents, which could belongs to judge the bishops, whom, not bear the daylight of sound crit- if thou obeyest not, thou art already, icism. So they slunk from observa- as far as God is concerned, contion, even before the death of their demned to death? Since these things conjuror, not, however, until they are so, why dost thou, who art not had left the evil seed behind them, of God's domestic, assume this auwhich unfortunately took root in the thority over the priest?” Theodorus privy chambers of princes, and Studita delivers a similar objurgasprang into a powerful and extended tion: “Do not dissolve, O emperor, existence throughout Europe in the the ecclesiastical order! For the still more monstrous form of the Apostle says, the Lord has constituted Royal Exequatur. Such is the origin in his Church some apostles, some and history of the Royal Placitum, prophets, others evangelists, and which is universally and unanimously others pastors and doctors for the characterized by canonists as an in consummation of saints; but he did tolerable error.
not add kings. To thee, O emperor, The Church has declared it such is committed the political state and from the very beginning of her ex- the army; take care of these. But istence, first by implication, and leave the Church to the pastors and afterwards in an explicit manner. rectors according to the Apostle." What is the Royal Placet after all, We might accumulate testimonies but the repetition of the old story, at pleasure, which are an implicit Cæsar prying into and meddling condemnation of the Placitum. But with the affairs of God? What but it would be supererogatory; besides, the Placitum did that sterling hero we are not proving a thesis. Our of ecclesiastical liberty, St. Athana- purpose is simply to make the reader sius, condemn, in his oration against acquainted with this form of persethe first regalists in Church history, cution which is so harassing to the the Arians? “Many synods," said Church nowadays. Yet we are not he, “have been convoked hitherto; without the confidence, that to know many decrees of the Church have it well is to perceive its injustice, been published, but the fathers never supposing for the moment that the suggested such things to the em- Church had never condemned it, peror; never did the emperor pry either implicitly or explicitly. Think curiously into ecclesiastical matters, you, however, that the Roman Pontiffs a new spectacle which has been in- have quietly tolerated this evil since it vented by the Arian heresy." But has taken a positive and durable form, Lucifer Calaritanus comes more close- without publishing explicitly what ly to the point in his celebrated ad- the teaching of the Church is in the dress to the Emperor Constantius. matter? Not to speak of the con“Prove that thou hast been appoint- demnation of the Duke of Complued judge over us; prove that thou tum by St. Pius V, of the congregahast been made emperor for this, tions of Gregory XIII, held on this that thou, by the force of thy arms, matter, of a decree of the Propaganda, shouldst bring us to the will of thy published October 2d, 1675, and of friend, the devil. But thou canst two decrees of the Holy Office, there not prove it, because it is command are nine pontifical constitutions of so ed thee, not only not to domineer many Roman Pontiffs which anathover the bishops, but to obey their ematize, as an intolerable error, the statutes, in such a manner that, doctrine that the right of the Placishouldst thou attempt to undermine tum is to be considered among the their decrees, shouldst thou be taken naturally inherent rights of the secin pride, thou shalt die the death. ular authority. We would mention