CONGREGATION OF COUNCILS 429
of Rome. With this the Congregation of Councils is entrusted. It was originally established to carry out the decrees of the Council of Trent in so far as the reform of the clergy and the laity was concerned. Today it still has the task of keeping watch over the fulfilment of the commandments, especially those of the Church concerning Sunday observance and fasting. It issues ordinances governing the public and in part the domestic conduct of the secular clergy, and when neces- sary can take steps to bring about improvement. In order to perform its duties satisfactorily it co-operates with the episcopal authorities and from time to time demands reports. The questions which rise out of Church property are also entrusted to it Mass stipends, pious foundations, brotherhoods, charitable organizations, Church taxes and emoluments, the property of the Church as a whole and its administra- tion. It constitutes the court of appeal to which priests may go if they wish to enter complaints against their bishops. Indeed in one respect it takes precedence over the Consistorial Congregation, in so far as the bishops are concerned: it has the right of supervision over episcopal conferences and provincial synods, and is thus the guardian of the loyalty of the bishops to doctrine and to the Papal primacy. More- over it strives to eliminate national influence on ecclesiastical directions. All in all, it is a disciplinary institution having broad powers.
The number of secular priests far exceeds a quarter of a million, and the total of religious (half of whom are priests and half of whom are lay brothers) is about as large. Accordingly the jurisdiction of the Congregatio de Rcligiosis, the Congregation of the Orders, is no less extensive than that of the Congregation of Councils.
The largest religious foundations of the Western world have created the types of religious living according to which all associations foster- ing a religious and ascetic life now conform in the Church. Those Orders which follow the so-called rule of St. Augustine today include the well-known and active Premonstratensians and the monks of the Hospices of St. Bernard and the Simplon among its relatively few groups. The first monastic rule of Europe, the Rule of St. Benedict, created monasticism proper, and this continues to flourish in those splendid old centres of culture associated with the Benedictine Order, as well as in numerous younger foundations. Familiar to all is the