1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Curia Romana
CURIA ROMANA, the name given to the whole body of administrative and judicial institutions, by means of which the pope carries on the general government of the Church; the name is also applied by an extension of meaning to the persons who form part of it, and sometimes to the Holy See itself. Rome is almost the only place where the word curia has preserved its ancient form; elsewhere it has been almost always replaced by the word court (cour, corte), which is etymologically the same. Even at Rome, however, the expression “papal court” (corte romana) has acquired by usage a sense different from that of the word curia; as in the case of royal courts it denotes the whole body of dignitaries and officials who surround and attend on the pope; the pope, however, has two establishments: the civil establishment, in which he is surrounded by what is termed his “family” (familia); and the religious establishment, the members of which form his “chapel” (capella). The word curia is more particularly reserved to the tribunals and departments which actually deal with the general business of the Church.
I. In order to understand the organization of the various constituent parts of the Roman Curia, we must remember that the modern principle of the separation of powers is unknown to the Church; the functions of each department General remarks. are limited solely by the extent of the powers delegated to it and the nature of the business entrusted to it; but each of them may have a share at the same time in the legislative, judicial and administrative power. Similarly, the necessity for referring matters to the pope in person, for his approval or ratification of the decisions arrived at, varies greatly according to the department and the nature of the business. But on the whole, all sections of the Curia hold their powers direct from the pope, and exercise them in his name. Each of them, then, has supreme authority within its own sphere, while the official responsibility belongs to the pope, just as in all governments it is the government that is responsible for the acts of its departments. Of these official acts, however, it is possible to distinguish two categories: those emanating directly from the heads of departments are generally called Acts of the Holy See (and in this sense the Holy See is equivalent to the Curia); those which emanate direct from the pope are called Pontifical Acts. The latter are actually the Apostolic Letters, i.e. those documents in which the pope speaks in his own name (bulls, briefs, encyclicals, &c.) even when he does not sign them, as we shall see. The Apostolic Letters alone may be ex cathedra documents, and may have the privilege of infallibility, if the matter admit of it. There are also certain differences between the two sorts of documents with regard to their penal consequences. But in all cases the disciplinary authority is evidently the same; we need only note that acts concerning individuals do not claim the force of general law; the legal decisions serve at most to settle matters of jurisprudence, like the judgments of all sovereign courts.
The constituent parts of the Roman Curia fall essentially into two classes: (1) the tribunals and offices, which for centuries served for the transaction of business and which continue their activity; (2) the permanent commissions Division. of cardinals, known by the name of the Roman Congregations. These, though more recent, have taken precedence of the former, the work of which they have, moreover, greatly relieved; they are indeed composed of the highest dignitaries of the church, the cardinals (q.v.), and are, as it were, subdivisions of the consistory (q.v.), a council in which the whole of the Sacred College takes part.
II. The Roman Congregations.—The constitution of all of these is the same; a council varying in numbers, the members of which are cardinals, who alone take part in the deliberations. One of the cardinals acts as president, Roman Congregations. or prefect, as he is called; the congregation is assisted by a secretary and a certain number of inferior officials, for secretarial and office work. They have also consultors, whose duty it is to study the subjects for consideration. Their deliberations are secret and are based on prepared documents bearing on the case, written, or more often printed, which are distributed to all the cardinals about ten days in advance. The deliberations follow a simplified procedure, which is founded more on equity than on the more strictly legal forms, and decisions are given in the shortest possible form, in answer to carefully formulated questions or dubia. The cardinal prefect, aided by the secretariate, deals with the ordinary business, only important matters being submitted for the consideration of the general meeting. To have the force of law the acts of the congregations must be signed by the cardinal prefect and secretary, and sealed with his seal. Practically the only exception is in the cases of the Holy Office, and of the Consistorial Congregation of which the pope himself is prefect; the acts of the first are signed by the “notary,” and the acts of the second by the assessor.
We may pass over those temporary congregations of cardinals known also as “special,” the authority and existence of which extend only to the consideration of one particular question; and also those which had as their object various aspects of the temporal administration of the papal states, which have ceased to exist since 1870. We deal here only with the permanent ecclesiastical congregations, the real machinery of the papal administration. Some of them go quite far back into the 16th century; but it was Sixtus V. who was their great organizer; by his bull Immensa of the 22nd of January 1587, he apportioned all the business of the Church (including that of the papal states) among fifteen Congregations of cardinals, some of which were already in existence, but most of which were established by him; and these commissions, or those of them at least which are concerned with spiritual matters, are still working. A few others have been added by his successors. Pius X., by the constitution Sapienti Consilio of the 29th of June 1908, proceeded to a general reorganization of the Roman Curia: Congregations, tribunals and offices. In this constitution he declared that the competency of these various organs was not always clear, and that their functions were badly arranged; that certain of them had only a small amount of business to deal with, while others were overworked; that strictly judicial affairs, with which the Congregations had not to deal originally, had developed to an excessive extent, while the tribunals, the Rota and the Signatura, had nothing to do. He consequently withdrew all judicial affairs from the Congregations, and handed them over to the two tribunals, now revived, of the Rota and the papal Signatura; all affairs concerning the discipline of the sacraments were entrusted to a new Congregation of that name; the competency of the remaining Congregations was modified, according to the nature of the affairs with which they deal, and certain of them were amalgamated with others; general rules were laid down for the expedition of business and regarding personnel; in short, the work of Sixtus V. was repeated and adapted to later conditions. We will now give the nomenclature of the Roman Congregations, as they were until 1908, and mentioning the modifications made by Pius X.
(1) The Holy Inquisition, Roman and universal, or Holy Office (Sacra Congregatio Romanae et universalis Inquisitionis seu Sancti Officii), the first of the Congregations, hence called the supreme. It is composed of twelve cardinals, The Holy Office. assisted by a certain number of officials: the assessor, who practically fulfils the functions of the secretary, the commissary general, some consultors and the qualificators, whose duty it is to determine the degree of theological condemnation deserved by erroneous doctrinal propositions (haeretica, erronea, temeraria, &c.). The presidency is reserved to the pope, and the cardinal of longest standing takes the title of secretary. This Congregation, established in 1542 by Paul III., constitutes the tribunal of the Inquisition (q.v.), of which the origins are much older, since it was instituted in the 13th century against the Albigenses. It deals with all questions of doctrine and with the repression of heresy, together with those crimes which are more or less of the character of heresy. Its procedure is subject to the strictest secrecy. Pius X. attached to it all matters concerning indulgences; on the other hand, he transferred to the Congregation of the Council matters concerning the precepts of the Church such as fasting, abstinence and festivals. The choosing of bishops, which had in recent times been entrusted to the Holy Office, was given to the Consistorial Congregation, and dispensations from religious vows to the Congregation of the Religious Orders. The Holy Office continues, however, to deal with mixed marriages and marriages with infidels.
(2) The Consistorial Congregation (Sacra Congregatio Consistorialis), established by Sixtus V., has as its object the preparation of business to be dealt with and decided in secret consistory (q.v.); notably promotions to cathedral Consistorial. churches and consistorial benefices, the erection of dioceses, &c. To this congregation is also subject the administration of the common property of the college of cardinals. Pius X. restored this Congregation to a position of great importance; in the first place he gave it the effective control of all matters concerning the erection of dioceses and chapters and the appointment of bishops, except in the case of countries subject to the Propaganda, and save that for countries outside Italy it has to act upon information furnished by the papal secretary of state. He further entrusted to this Congregation everything relating to the supervision of bishops and of the condition of the dioceses, and business connected with the seminaries. It has also the duty of deciding disputes as to the competency of the other Congregations. The pope continues to be its prefect, and the cardinal secretary of the Holy Office and the secretary of state are ex officio members of it; the cardinal who occupies the highest rank in it, with the title of secretary, is chosen by the pope; he is assisted by a prelate with the title of assessor, who is ex officio secretary of the Sacred College. The assessor of the Holy Office and the secretary for extraordinary ecclesiastical affairs are ex officio consultors.
(3) The Pontifical Commission for the reunion of the dissident Churches, established by Leo XIII. in 1895 after his constitution Orientalium. The pope reserved the presidency for himself; its activity is merely nominal. It was attached by Pius X. to the Congregation of the Propaganda.
(4) The Congregation of the Apostolic Visitation (Sacra Congregatio Visitationis apostolicae). The Visitation is the personal inspection of institutions, churches, religious establishments and their personnel, to correct abuses The Visitation. and enforce the observation of rules. Through this Congregation the pope, as bishop of Rome, made the inspection of his diocese; it is for this reason that he was president of this commission, the most important member of which was the cardinal vicar. He takes the place of the pope in the administration of the diocese of Rome; he has his own offices and diocesan assistants as in other bishoprics. The Congregation of the Visitation was suppressed by Pius X. as a separate Congregation, and was reduced to a mere commission which is attached, as before, to the Vicariate.
(5) The Congregation on the discipline of the sacraments (Sacra Congregatio de Disciplina Sacramentorum), established by Pius X., thus comes to occupy the third rank. With the reservation of those questions, especially of a dogmatic character, which belong to the Holy Office, and of purely ritual questions, which come under the Congregation of Rites, this Congregation brings under one authority all disciplinary questions concerning the sacraments, which were formerly distributed among several Congregations and offices. It deals with dispensations for marriages, ordinations, &c., concessions with regard to the mass, the communion, &c.
(6) The Congregation of the Bishops and Regulars, of which the full official title was, Congregation for the Affairs and Consultations of the Bishops and Regulars (Sacra Congregatio super negotiis Episcoporum et Regularium; now Sacra Congregatio negotiis religiosorum sodalium praeposita). Bishops and Regulars. It is the result of the fusion of two previous commissions; that for the affairs of bishops, established by Gregory XIII., and that for the affairs of the regular clergy, founded by Sixtus V.; the fusion dates from Clement VIII. (1601). This congregation was very much occupied, being empowered to deal with all disciplinary matters concerning both the secular and regular clergy, whether in the form of consultations or of contentious suits; it had further the exclusive right to regulate the discipline of the religious orders and congregations bound by the simple vows, the statutes of which it examined, corrected and approved; finally it judged disputes and controversies between the secular and regular clergy. On the 26th of May 1906, Pius X. incorporated in this Congregation two others having a similar object: that on the discipline of the regular clergy (Congregatio super Disciplina Regularium), founded by Innocent XII. in 1695, and that on the condition of the regular clergy (Congregatio super Statu Regularium), established by Pius IX. in 1846. In 1908 Pius X. withdrew from this Congregation all disciplinary matters affecting the secular clergy, and limited its competency to matters concerning the religious orders, both as regards their internal affairs and their relations with the bishops.
(7) The Congregation of the Council (Sacra Congregatio Cardinalium Concilii Tridentini interpretum), i.e. a number of cardinals whose duty it is to interpret the disciplinary decrees of the council of Trent, was instituted by Pius Council. IV. in 1563, and reorganized by Sixtus V.; its mission is to promote the observation of these disciplinary decrees, to give authoritative interpretations of them, and to reconcile disputes arising out of them. Pius X. in 1908 entrusted to this Congregation the supervision of the general discipline of the secular clergy and the faithful laity, empowering it to deal with matters concerning the precepts of the Church, festivals, foundations, church property, benefices, provincial councils and episcopal assemblies. Proceedings for annulling marriages, which used to be reserved to it, were transferred to the tribunal of the Rota; reports on the condition of the dioceses were henceforth to be addressed to the Consistorial Congregation, which involved the suppression of the commission which had hitherto dealt with them. The other commission, formerly charged with the revision of the decrees of provincial councils, was merged in the Congregation itself. The Congregation of Immunity (Sacra Congregatio Jurisdictionis et Immunitatis ecclesiasticae) was created by Urban VIII. (1626) to watch over the immunities of the clergy in respect of person or property, whether local or general. This, having no longer any object, was also attached to the Congregation of the Council, and is now amalgamated with it.
(8) The Congregation of the Propaganda (Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide) was established by Gregory XV. in 1622, and added to by Urban VIII., who founded the celebrated College of the Propaganda for the education Propaganda. of missionaries, and his polyglot press for printing the liturgical books of the East. It had charge of the administration of the Catholic churches in all non-Catholic countries, for which it discharged the functions of all the Congregations, except in doctrinal and strictly legislative matters. Its sphere was very wide; it administered all non-European countries, except Latin America and the old colonies of the Catholic countries of Europe; in Europe it had also charge of the United Kingdom and the Balkan States. But the constitution “Sapienti” of 1908 withdrew from the Propaganda and put under the common law of the Church most of those parts in which the episcopal hierarchy had been re-established, i.e. in Europe, the United Kingdom, Holland and Luxemburg; in America, Canada, Newfoundland and the United States. Further, even for those countries which it continues to administer, the Propaganda has to submit to the various Congregations all questions affecting the Faith, marriage and rites. The missions begin by establishing apostolic prefectures under the charge of priests; the prefecture is later transformed into an apostolic vicariate, having at its head a bishop; finally, the hierarchy, i.e. the diocesan episcopate, is established in the country, with residential sees. Thus the hierarchy was re-established in England in 1850 by Pius IX., in 1878 by Leo XIII. in Scotland, in 1886 in India, in 1891 in Japan. It is also the work of the Propaganda to appoint the bishops for the countries it administers. Under the same cardinal prefect is found that section of the Propaganda which deals with matters concerning oriental rites (Congregatio specialis pro negotiis ritus Orientalis), the object of which is indicated by its name. To the former were attached two commissions, one for the approbation of those religious congregations which devote themselves to missions, which is now transferred to the Congregation of the Religious Orders; the other for the examination of the reports sent in by the bishops and vicars apostolic on their dioceses or missions. With the latter is connected the commission for the examination of the liturgical books of the East (Commissio pro corrigendis libris ecclesiae Orientalis). Finally, the popes have devoted to the missions the income arising from the Chamber of Spoils (Camera Spoliorum), i.e. that portion of the revenue from church property which cannot be bequeathed by the holders of benefices as their own property; this source of income, however, has decreased greatly.
(9) The Congregation of the Index (Congregatio indicis librorum prohibitorum), founded by St Pius V. in 1571 and reorganized by Sixtus V., has as its object the examination Index. and the condemnation or interdiction of bad or dangerous books which are submitted to it, or, since the constitution “Sapienti,” of those which it thinks fit to examine on its own initiative (see Index).
(10) The Congregation of Rites (Congregatio sacrorum Rituum), founded by Sixtus V., has exclusive charge of the liturgy and liturgical books; it also deals with the proceedings Rites. in the beatification and canonization of saints. Of late years there have been added to it a Liturgical Commission, a Historico-liturgical Commission, and a Commission for church song, the functions of which are sufficiently indicated by their names.
(11) The Ceremonial Congregation (Sacra Congregatio caeremonialis), the prefect of which is the cardinal dean, Ceremonial. was instituted by Sixtus V.; its mission is to settle questions of precedence and etiquette, especially at the papal court; it is nowadays but little occupied.
(12) The Congregation of Indulgences and Relics (Sacra Congregatio Indulgentiarum et Sacrarum Reliquiarum), founded in 1669 by Clement IX., devoted itself to eradicating any abuses which might creep into the practice of indulgences and the cult of relics. It had also the Indulgences. duty of considering applications for the concession of indulgences and of interpreting the rules with regard to them. In 1904 Pius X. attached this Congregation to that of Rites, making the personnel of both the same, without suppressing it. In 1908, however, it was suppressed, as stated above, and its functions as to indulgences were transferred to the Holy Office, and those as to relics to the Congregation of Rites.
(13) The Congregation of the Fabric of St Peter’s (Sacra Congregatio reverendae Fabricae S. Petri) is charged with the upkeep, repairs and temporal administration of the great basilica; in this capacity it controls the famous manufacture of the Fabric of St Peter’s. Vatican mosaics. It also formerly enjoyed certain spiritual powers for the reduction of the obligations imposed by pious legacies and foundations, the objects of which, for want of funds or any other reason, could not be fully carried out, and for the condonation of past omission of such obligations, e.g. of priests to celebrate the foundation masses of their benefices. In 1908 these powers were taken away from it by Pius X., and transferred to the Congregation of the Council, which already exercised some of them.
(14) The Congregation of Loretto (Congregatio Lauretana) discharged the same functions for the sanctuary of that name; its temporal administration was latterly very much reduced, and in 1908 it was united by Pius X. with the Congregation of the Council.
(15) The Congregation for extraordinary ecclesiastical affairs (Sacra Congregatio super negotiis ecclesiasticis extraordinariis), established by Pius VI. at the end of the 18th century to study the difficult questions relative to France, Extraordinary affairs. was afterwards definitively continued by Pius VII.; and there has been no lack of fresh extraordinary matters. It also dealt with the administration of the churches of Latin America, not to mention certain European countries, such as Russia, under the same conditions as the Propaganda in countries under missions. Since the constitution Sapienti, its competency has been confined to the examination, at the request of the secretary of state, of questions which are submitted to it, and especially those arising from civil laws and concordats.
(16) The Congregation of Studies (Congregatio pro Universitate studii Romani, Congregazione degli Studi), founded by Sixtus V. to act as a higher council for the Roman university of La Sapienza, had ceased to have any functions Studies. when in 1824 it was re-established by Leo XII. to supervise education in Rome and the Papal States; since 1870 it has been exclusively concerned with the Catholic universities, so far as the sacred sciences are concerned. With this should be connected the commission for historical studies, instituted in 1883 by Leo XIII., at the same time as he threw the Vatican archives freely open to scholars.
III. The Tribunals and Offices.—Though it has been relieved of the functions allotted to the Congregations of cardinals, the old machinery of the ecclesiastical administration has not been abolished; and the process of centralization Tribunals and offices. which has been accentuated in the course of the last few centuries, together with the facility of communication, ensured for them a fresh activity, new offices having even been added. The chief thing to be observed is that the prelates who were formerly at the head of these departments have almost all been replaced by cardinals. The following is the list of the tribunals and offices, including the changes introduced by the reorganization of the Curia by Pius X. in 1908. The tribunals are three in number: one for the forum internum, the Penitentiary; the other two for judicial matters in foro externo, the Rota and the papal Signatura.
(1) The Penitentiary (Sacra poenitentiaria Apostolica) is the tribunal having exclusive jurisdiction in matters of conscience (in foro interno), e.g. dispensations from secret impediments and private vows, the absolution of reserved Penitentiary. cases. These concessions are applied for anonymously. It also had, previously to the constitution Sapienti, a certain jurisdiction in foro externo, such as over matrimonial dispensations for poor people. Its concessions are absolutely gratuitous. Since the 12th century, the papal court had already had officials known as penitentiaries (poenitentiarii) for matters of conscience; the organization of the Penitentiary, after several modifications, was renewed by Benedict XIV. in 1748. At the head of it is the cardinal grand penitentiary (major poenitentiarius), assisted by the regens (It. regente) and various other functionaries and officials.
(2) The court of the Rota (Sacra Rota Romana) used to be the supreme ecclesiastical tribunal for civil affairs, and its decisions had great authority. This tribunal goes back at least as far as the 14th century, but its activity had been reduced as Rota. a result of the more expeditious and summary, and less costly, procedure of the Congregations. The constitution Sapienti restored the Rota to existence and activity: it is now once more the ecclesiastical court of appeal for both civil and criminal cases. Pius X. also made special regulations for it, by which its ancient usages are adapted to modern circumstances. The tribunal of the Rota consists of ten judges called auditors (uditori), of whom the most senior is president with the title of dean. Each judge has an auxiliary; to the tribunal are attached a promotor fiscalis, charged with the duty of securing the due application of the law, and an official charged with the defence of marriage and ordination; there is also a clerical staff (notaries, scribes) attached to the court. Cases are judged by three auditors, who succeed each other periodically (per turnum) according to the order in which the cases are entered, and in exceptional cases by all the auditors (videntibus omnibus). Under the jurisdiction of the Rota, in addition to cases of first instance submitted to it by the pope, are such judgments of episcopal courts as are strictly speaking subject to appeal; for petitions against non-judicial decisions are referred to the Congregations. Appeal is sometimes allowed from one “turn” to another; if the second sentence of the Rota confirms the first, it is definitive; if not, a third may be obtained.
(3) The supreme tribunal of the papal Signatura (Signatura Apostolica). There were formerly two sections: the Signatura Justitiae and the Signatura Gratiae; by the constitution Sapientis they were suppressed and amalgamated Signatura. into one body, the Signatura Apostolica, which is the exact equivalent of other modern courts of cassation. This tribunal is composed of six cardinals, one of whom is the prefect, assisted by a prelate secretary, consultors and the necessary inferior officials. It judges cases in which auditors of the Rota are concerned, such as personal objections, but especially objections (querelae) lodged against sentences of the Rota, with a view to their being annulled or revised (restitutio in integrum).
Next come the offices, now reduced to six in number.
(1) The Chancery (Cancellaria Apostolica), the department from which are sent out the papal letters, has for a long time drawn up only those letters written in solemn form Chancery. known as bulls. The bull, so called from the leaden seal (bulla), is written on thick parchment; the special writing known as Lombard, which used to be used for bulls, was abolished by Leo XIII., and the leaden seal reserved for the Bull. more important letters; on the others it has been replaced by a red ink stamp bearing both the emblems represented on the leaden seal: the two heads, face to face, of St Peter and St Paul, and the name of the reigning pope. Bulls are written in the name of the pope, who styles himself “(Pius) Episcopus servus servorum Dei; (Pius), bishop, servant of the servants of God.” They were formerly dated by kalends and from the era of the Incarnation, which begins on the 25th of March, but in 1908 Pius X. ordered them to be dated according to the common era. It is practically only bulls of canonization which are signed by the pope and all the cardinals present in Rome; the signature of the pope is then “(Pius) Episcopus Ecclesiae catholicae,” while his ordinary signature bears only his name and number, “Pius PP. X.” Ordinary bulls are signed by several officials of the chancery, and a certain number only by the cardinal at its head, who until 1908 was styled vice-chancellor, because the chancellor used formerly to be a prelate, not a cardinal; but since the constitution Sapienti has been entitled chancellor. He is assisted by several officials, beginning with the regens of the chancery. To the chancery were attached the abbreviatores de parco majori vel minori (see Abbreviators), formerly charged with the drawing up or “extension” of bulls; they were suppressed by Pius X., and their functions transferred to the Protonotarii apostolici participantes (i.e. active). Further, Pope Pius confined the functions of the chancery to the sending out of bulls under the leaden seal (sub plumbo), for the erection of dioceses, the provision of bishoprics and consistorial benefices, and other affairs of importance, these bulls being sent out by order of the Consistorial Congregation.
(2) The Apostolic Dataria is the department dealing with matters of grace, e.g. the concession of privileges, nominations to benefices and dispensations in foro externo, especially matrimonial ones; but its functions have been greatly Dataria Apostolica. reduced by the reforms of Pius X.; the matrimonial section has been suppressed, dispensations for marriages now belonging to the Congregation for the discipline of the sacraments; the section dealing with benefices, which is the only one preserved, deals with non-consistorial benefices reserved to the Holy See; it examines the claims of the candidates, draws up and sends out the letters of collation, gives dispensations, when necessary, in matters concerning the benefices, and manages the charges (i.e. pensions to incumbents who have resigned, &c.) imposed on the benefices by the pope. It has at its head a cardinal formerly called the pro-datarius, the datarius having formerly been a prelate; and now datarius, since the reform by Pius X. The cardinal is assisted by a prelate called the sub-datarius, and other officials.
(3) The Apostolic Chamber (Reverenda Camera Apostolica) was before the abolition of the temporal power of the papacy the ministry of finance, at once treasury and exchequer, of the popes as heads of the Catholic Church as well as Apostolic chamber. sovereigns of the papal states. Although it is necessarily diminished in importance, it has retained the administration of the property of the Holy See, especially during a vacancy. At its head is the cardinal camerlengo (Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalis Camerarius), who, as we know, exercises the external authority during the vacancy of the Holy See.
(4) Next come the palatine secretariates, the first and principal of which is the secretariate of state (Secretaria status). The cardinal secretary of state is as it were the pope’s prime minister, gathering into one centre the internal Secretaryship of State. administration and foreign affairs, by means of the nunciatures and delegations depending on his department. The secretary of state is the successor of what was called in the 17th century the cardinal nephew; his functions and importance have increased more and more. The secretariate of state is the department dealing with the political affairs of the Church. To it belongs the internal administration of the apostolic palaces, with the library, archives, museums, &c. In 1908 Pius X. divided the departments of the secretariate of state into three sections, under the authority of the cardinal secretary. The first is the department of extraordinary ecclesiastical affairs, having at its head the secretary of the Congregation of the same name; the second, that of ordinary affairs, directed by a substitute, is the department dealing, among other things, with the concession of honorary distinctions, both for ecclesiastics and laymen; the third is that of the briefs, which hitherto Briefs. formed a separate secretariate. It is this department which sends out, at the command of the secretary of state or the various Congregations, those papal letters which are written in less solemn form, brevi manu, hence the word “brief.” They are written in the pope’s name, but he only takes the less solemn style of: “Pius PP. X.” The brief is written on thin parchment, and dated by the ordinary era and the day of the month; they were formerly signed only by the cardinal secretary of briefs or his substitute, but now by the cardinal secretary of state or the head of the office, called the chancellor of Briefs (cancellarius Brevium). The seal is that of the fisherman’s ring, hence the formula of conclusion, “Datum Romae, sub annulo Piscatoris.” The “Fisherman’s ring” is a red ink stamp representing St Peter on a boat casting out his nets, with the name of the reigning pope.
The reform of Pius X. maintained untouched the two offices called the secretariate of briefs to princes, and the secretariate of Latin Letters, the names of which are sufficient indication of their functions. The secretariate of memorials Other offices. (Secretaria Memorialium), through which pass requests addressed to the pope for the purpose of obtaining certain favours, was formerly of great importance; it is now suppressed and the requests are addressed to the proper departments. Finally, the pope has his special secretary, his auditor, with his offices, as well as the papal almonry, the officials of which administer the papal charities.
IV. The pontifical “family” (familia) forms the pope’s civil court. First come the palatine cardinals, i.e. those who, on account of their office, have the right of living in the papal palaces. These were formerly four in number: The pontifical “family.” the pro-datarius (now datarius), the secretary of state, the secretary of briefs, and the secretary of the memorials; the two last of these were suppressed in 1908. Next come the four palatine prelates, the majordomo, the superintendent of the household and its staff, and successor of the ancient vicedominus; the master of the chamber, who presides over the arrangement of audiences; the auditor, or private secretary; and finally the master of the sacred palace (magister sacri palatii), a kind of theological adviser, always a Dominican, whose special duty is nowadays the revision of books published at Rome. Other prelates rank with the above, but in a lower degree, notably the almoner and the various secretaries. All ecclesiastics admitted, by virtue of their office or by a gracious concession of the pope, to form part of the “family,” are called domestic prelates, prelates of the household; this is an honorary title conferred on many priests not resident in Rome. The external service of the palace is performed by the Swiss Guard and the gendarmerie; the service of the ante-chamber by the lay and ecclesiastical chamberlains; this service has also given rise to certain honorary titles both for ecclesiastics, e.g. honorary chamberlain, and for laymen, e.g. secret chamberlain (cameriere segreto). (See Chamberlain.)
V. The pontifical “chapel” (capella) is the papal court for purposes of religious worship. In it the pope is surrounded by the cardinals according to their order; by the patriarchs, archbishops and bishops attending at the Pontifical chapel. throne, and others; by the prelates of the Curia, and by all the clergy both secular and regular. Among the prelates we should mention the protonotaries, the successors of the old notaries or officials of the papal chancery in the earliest centuries; the seven protonotarii participantes were restored by Pope Pius X. to the chancery, as noted above, but they have kept important honorary privileges; this is yet another source of distinctions conferred upon a great number of priests outside of Rome, the protonotaries of different classes. In a lower degree there are also the chaplains of honour. Since 1870 the great pontifical ceremonies have lost much of their splendour.
Bibliography.—La Gerarchia cattolica, an annual directory published at Rome; Lunadoro, Relazione della corte di Roma (Rome, 1765); Moroni, Dizionario di erudizione, under the various headings; Card. De Luca, Relatio curiae romanae (Cologne, 1683); Bouix, De curia romana (Paris, 1859); Ferraris, Prompta bibliotheca (addit. Cassinenses), s.v. Congregatio; Grimaldi, Les Congrégations romaines (Sienna, 1891); Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, s.v. Cour romaine (Paris, 1907); Publications of the acts of the Roman Congregations: Bishops and regulars—Bizzarri, Collectanea in usum Secretariae (Rome, 1866, 1885). Council: the Thesaurus resolutionum has published all business since 1700; a volume is issued every year, and the contents have been published in alphabetical order by Zamboni (4 vols., Rome, 1812; Arras, 1860) and by Pallottini (18 vols., Rome, 1868, &c.). Immunity: Ricci, Synopsis, decreta et resolutiones (Palestrina, 1708). Propaganda: De Martinis, Juris pontificii de Propaganda Fide, &c. (Rome, 1888, &c.); Collectanea S. C. de Prop. Fide (2nd ed., Rome, 1907). Index: Index librorum prohibitorum (Rome, 1900). Rites: Decreta authentica (Rome, 1898). Indulgences: Decreta authentica (Regensburg, 1882); Rescripta authentica (ib., 1885).