1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Archbishop

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ARCHBISHOP (Lat. archiepiscopus, from Gr. ἀρχιεπίσκοπος), in the Christian Church, the title of a bishop of superior rank, implying usually jurisdiction over other bishops, but no superiority of order over them. The functions of the archbishop, as at present exercised, developed out of those of the metropolitan (q.v.); though the title of archbishop, when it first appeared, implied no metropolitan jurisdiction. Nor are the terms interchangeable now; for not all metropolitans are archbishops,[1] nor all archbishops metropolitans. The title seems to have been introduced first in the East, in the 4th century, as an honorary distinction implying no superiority of jurisdiction. Its first recorded use is by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, who applied it to his predecessor Alexander as a mark of respect. In the same way Gregory of Nazianzus bestowed it upon Athanasius himself. In the next century its use would seem to have been more common as the title of bishops of important sees; for several archbishops are stated to have been present at the council of Chalcedon in 451. In the Western Church the title was hardly known before the 7th century, and did not become common until the Carolingian emperors revived the right of the metropolitans to summon provincial synods. The metropolitans now commonly assumed the title of archbishop to mark their pre-eminence over the other bishops; at the same time the obligation imposed upon them, mainly at the instance of St Boniface, to receive the pallium (q.v.) from Rome, definitely marked the defeat of their claim to exercise metropolitan jurisdiction independently of the pope.

At the present day, the title of archbishop is retained in the Roman Catholic Church, the various oriental churches, the Anglican Church, and certain branches of the Lutheran (Evangelical) Church. In the Roman Catholic Church the powers of the archbishop are considerably less extensive than they were in the middle ages. According to the medieval canon law, based on the decretals, and codified in the 13th century in the Corpus juris canonici, by which the earlier powers Roman Catholic Church.of metropolitans had been greatly curtailed, the powers of the archbishop consisted in the right (1) to confirm and consecrate suffragan bishops; (2) to summon and preside over provincial synods; (3) to superintend the suffragans and visit their dioceses, as well as to censure and punish bishops in the interests of discipline, the right of deprivation, however, being reserved to the pope; (4) to act as a court of appeal from the diocesan courts; (5) to exercise the jus devolutionis, i.e. present to benefices in the gift of bishops, if these neglect their duty in this respect. These rights were greatly curtailed by the council of Trent. The confirmation and consecration of bishops (q.v.) is now reserved to the Holy See. The summoning of provincial synods, which was made obligatory every three years by the council, was long neglected, but is now more common wherever the political conditions, e.g. in the United States, Great Britain and France, are favourable. The disciplinary powers of the archbishop, on the other hand, can scarcely be said to survive. The right to hold a visitation of a suffragan’s diocese or to issue censures against him was, by Sess. xxiv. c. 3 de ref., of the council of Trent, made dependent upon the consent of the provincial synod after cause shown (causa cognita et probata); and the only two powers left to the archbishop in this respect are to watch over the diocesan seminaries and to compel the residence of the bishop in his diocese. The right of the archbishop to exercise a certain disciplinary power over the regular orders is possessed by him, not as archbishop, but as the delegate ad hoc of the pope. Finally, the function of the archbishop as judge in a court of appeal, though it still subsists, is of little practical importance now that the clergy, in civil matters, are universally subject to the secular courts.

Besides archbishops who are metropolitans there are in the Roman Catholic Church others who have no metropolitan jurisdiction. Such are the titular archbishops in partibus, and certain archbishops of Italian sees who have no bishops under them. Archbishops rank immediately after patriarchs and have the same precedence as primates. The right to wear the pallium is confined to those archbishops who are not merely titular. It must be applied for, either in person or by proxy, at Rome by the archbishop within three months of his consecration or enthronement, and, before receiving it, he must take the oaths of fidelity and obedience to the Holy See. Until the pallium is granted, the archbishop is known only as archbishop-elect, and is not empowered to exercise his potestas ordinis in the archdiocese nor to summon the provincial synod and exercise the jurisdiction dependent upon this. He may, however, exercise his purely episcopal functions. The special ensign of his office is the cross, crux erecta or gestatoria, carried before him on solemn occasions (see Cross).

In the Orthodox and other churches of the East the title of archbishop is of far more common occurrence than in the West, and is less consistently associated with metropolitan functions. Thus in Greece there are eleven archbishops to thirteen bishops, the archbishop of Athens alone Eastern Church.being metropolitan; in Cyprus, where there are four bishops and only one archbishop, all five are of metropolitan rank.

In the Protestant churches of continental Europe the title of archbishop has fallen into almost complete disuse. It is, however, still borne by the Lutheran bishop of Upsala, who is metropolitan of Sweden, and by the Lutheran bishop of Åbo in Finland. In Prussia the title has occasionally Lutheran Church.been bestowed by the king on general superintendents of the Lutheran church, as in 1829, when Frederick William III. gave it to his friend and spiritual adviser, the celebrated preacher, Ludwig Ernst Borowski (1740–1831), general superintendent of Prussia (1812) and bishop (1816).

In the Church of England and its sister and daughter churches the position of the archbishop is defined by the medieval canon law as confirmed or modified by statute since the Reformation. It is, therefore, as regards both the potestas ordinis and jurisdiction, substantially the same as Church of England.in the Roman Catholic Church, save as modified on the one hand by the substitution of the supremacy of the crown for that of the Holy See, and on the other by the restrictions imposed by the council of Trent.

The ecclesiastical government of the Church of England is divided between two archbishops—the archbishop of Canterbury, who is “primate of all England” and metropolitan of the province of Canterbury, and the archbishop of York, who is “primate of England” and metropolitan of the province of York. The jurisdiction of the archbishop of Canterbury as primate of all England extends in certain matters into the province of York. He exercised the jurisdiction of legatus natus of the pope throughout all England before the Reformation, and since that event he has been empowered, by 25 Hen. VIII. c. 21, to exercise certain powers of dispensation in cases formerly sued for in the court of Rome. Under this statute the archbishop continues to grant special licences to marry, which are valid in both provinces; he appoints notaries public, who may practise in both provinces; and he grants dispensations to clerks to hold more than one benefice, subject to certain restrictions which have been imposed by later statutes. The archbishop also continues to grant degrees in the faculties of theology, music and law, which are known as Lambeth degrees. His power to grant degrees in medicine, qualifying the recipients to practise, was practically restrained by the Medical Act 1858.

The archbishop of Canterbury exercises the twofold jurisdiction of a metropolitan and a diocesan bishop. As metropolitan he is the guardian of the spiritualities of every vacant see within the province, he presents to all benefices which fall vacant during the vacancy of the see, and through his special commissary exercises the ordinary jurisdiction of a bishop within the vacant diocese. He exercises also an appellate jurisdiction over each bishop, which, in cases of licensed curates, he exercises personally under the Pluralities Act 1838; but his ordinary appellate jurisdiction is exercised by the judge of the Arches court (see Arches, Court of). The archbishop had formerly exclusive jurisdiction in all causes of wills and intestacies, where parties died having personal property in more than one diocese of the province of Canterbury, and he had concurrent jurisdiction in other cases. This jurisdiction, which he exercised through the judge of the Prerogative court, was transferred to the crown by the Court of Probate Act 1857. The Arches court was also the court of appeal from the consistory courts of the bishops of the province in all testamentary and matrimonial causes. The matrimonial jurisdiction was transferred to the crown by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857. The court of Audience, in which the archbishop presided personally, attended by his vicar-general, and sometimes by episcopal assessors, has fallen into desuetude. The vicar-general, however, exercises jurisdiction in matters of ordinary marriage licences and of institutions to benefices. The master of the faculties regulates the appointment of notaries public, and all dispensations which fall under 25 Hen. VIII. c. 21.

A right very rarely exercised by the archbishop of Canterbury, but one of great importance, is that of the visitation and deprivation of inferior bishops. Since there is no example of the archbishop of York exercising or being reputed to have such disciplinary jurisdiction over his suffragans,[2] and this right could, according to the canon law cited above, in the middle ages only be exercised normally in concert with the provincial synod, it would seem to be a survival of the special jurisdiction enjoyed by the pre-Reformation archbishop as legatus natus of the pope. It was somewhat freely exercised by Cranmer and his successors immediately after the Reformation; but the main precedent now relied upon is that of Dr Watson, bishop of St Davids, who was deprived in 1695 by Archbishop Tennison for simony and other offences, the legality of the sentence being finally confirmed by the House of Lords on the 25th of January 1705. It was proved in the course of the long argument in this case that the archbishop of Canterbury had undoubtedly exercised such independent power of visitation both before and after the Reformation; and it was on this precedent that in 1888 the judicial committee of the privy council mainly relied in deciding that the archbishop had the right to cite before him the bishop of Lincoln (Dr Edward King), who was accused of certain irregular ritual practices. The trial began on the 12th of February 1889 before the archbishop and certain assessors, the protest of Dr King, based on the claim that he could only be tried in a provincial synod, being overruled by Archbishop Benson on the grounds above stated. The main importance of the “Lincoln Judgment,” delivered on the 21st of November 1890, is that it set a new precedent for the effective jurisdiction of the archbishop, based on the ancient canon law, and so did something towards the establishment of a purely “spiritual” court, the absence of which had been one of the main grievances of a large body of the clergy.

It is the privilege of the archbishop of Canterbury to crown the kings and queens of England. He is entitled to consecrate all the bishops within his province and was formerly entitled, upon consecrating a bishop, to select a benefice within his diocese at his option for one of his chaplains, but this practice was indirectly abolished by 3 and 4 Vict. c. III, § 42. He is entitled to nominate eight chaplains, who had formerly certain statutory privileges, which are now abolished. He is ex officio an ecclesiastical commissioner for England, and has by statute the right of nominating one of the salaried ecclesiastical commissioners.

The archbishop exercises the ordinary jurisdiction of a bishop over his diocese through his consistory court at Canterbury, the judge of which court is styled the commissary-general of the city and diocese of Canterbury. The archbishop holds a visitation of his diocese personally every three years, and he is the only diocesan who has kept up the triennial visitation of the dean and chapter of his cathedral.[3] The archbishop of Canterbury takes precedence immediately after princes of the blood royal and over every peer of parliament, including the lord chancellor.

The archbishop of York has immediate spiritual jurisdiction as metropolitan in the case of all vacant sees within the province of York, analogous to that which is exercised by the archbishop of Canterbury within the province of Canterbury. He has also an appellate jurisdiction of an analogous character, which he exercises through his provincial court, whilst his diocesan jurisdiction is exercised through his consistorial court, the judges of both courts being nominated by the archbishop. His ancient testamentary and matrimonial jurisdiction was transferred to the crown by the same statutes which divested the see of Canterbury of its jurisdiction in similar matters. It is the privilege of the archbishop of York to crown the queen consort and to be her perpetual chaplain. The archbishop of York takes precedence over all subjects of the crown not of royal blood, but after the lord high chancellor of England. He is ex officio an ecclesiastical commissioner for England (see further England, Church of).

The Church of Ireland had at the time of the Act of Union four archbishops, who took their titles from Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Tuam. By acts of 1833 and 1834, the metropolitans of Cashel and of Tuam were reduced to the status of diocesan bishops. The two archbishoprics of Armagh and Dublin are maintained in the disestablished Church of Ireland.

The title archbishop has been used in certain of the colonial churches, e.g. Australia, South Africa, Canada, and the West Indies, since 1893, when it was assumed by the metropolitans of Canada and Rupert’s Land (see Anglican Communion). Archbishops have the title of His (or Your) Grace and Most Reverend Father in God.

See Hinschius, System des katholischen Kirchenrechts (Berlin, 1869), also article “Erzbischof,” in Hauck, Realencyklopädie (1898); Phillimore, The Ecclesiastical Law of the Church of England, and authorities there cited.  (W. A. P.) 

  1. In the Roman Church it is safe to say that all metropolitans are archbishops. In, e.g., the Scottish and American episcopal churches, however, the metropolitan is the senior bishop pro tem.
  2. Unless the case of the claim of Mark, bishop of Carlisle, to be tried by his ordinary instead of by a temporal court, be a precedent (Phillimore, Eccles. Law, p. 74, ed. 1895).
  3. The court of Peculiars is no longer held, inasmuch as the peculiars have been placed by acts of parliament under the ordinary jurisdiction of the bishops of the respective dioceses in which they are situated.