“Intra Arcana” by Pope Clement VII – Partial Translation

I post over at the Catholic Answers forums under the name “Mintaka”.

Somebody was asking about the papal bull “Intra Arcana,” so I translated a good chunk. It goes on for three or four more pages about how to recruit clergy for the New World missions, but this is most of the stuff that is getting discussed on Wikipedia. You’ll find my partial translation below, in three long parts. Loooooong.

On pages 76-77:


Clement, Servant of the Servants of God,

To Our dearest son in Christ, Charles, King of the Romans and the Spanish, elected as the Emperor:

Health and the Apostolic Blessing.

Going back over many things among the secrets of Our heart and mind for a long time since —

For that, and for the greatly renowned memory of Ferdinand the Catholic King, your maternal grandfather; for the guardianship and exaltation of the Catholic Faith; and for the propagation of the Christian Religion against the Moors and other enemies of Christ’s Name;

On behalf of this Holy See which governs it, upon which We preside by the Divine Kindness; hoping you (who adhere to the same Royal King in the Spains and the Sicilies, on this side [of the ocean] and beyond it, and prove to be the Advocate of our Church the Bride) will be supported by it in His footsteps; and his renowned works will be supported; and for greater growth of the said Faith by the excelling of the terrestrial army and the maritime fleet,

Inasmuch as it is so that the dwellers on those islands vulgarly named the Spannolas, which were discovered under this King Ferdinand, may be led back to the knowledge of the Faith; but also beyond that, for [the dwellers on] each one of the other islands in the Indian Ocean which were absolutely unknown until now; which [islands] may not unmeritedly be called “the New World;” which you have placed under your leadership and your auspices by your authority;

And the peoples of them having found nothing of the Christian Religion; you have managed recognizing and watching over the recognition for them with all care and diligence, thus far;

And following on this, we entrust the barbarous nations to you, until you take them to the Workman of all things, and they be recognized by God the Creator; driven along not only by edicts and admonitions, but also by arms and forces (if only so the work will [be able to] exist); so that with all care of bringing it about, their souls may become partakers of the Heavenly Kingdom.

Wherefore we deservedly introduce this [document], to grant it to you with the most eager soul, through which the honor of Your Highness may increase and your pleasing regard; and receiving to yourself suitable Ecclesiastical persons for Ecclesiastical benefices, may you be able to provide for them.

The motu proprio is not on account of your earnestness, or that of another for you about this offered petition, but simply out of Our Own liberality; so that by Our authority, from precisely whatever experienced bishops and archbishops will be chosen; for the Ecclesiastical persons; and also whosoever and howmanysoever and whatsoever kind of Ecclesiastical benefices with an office or a boundary of an office, you will name them for this through yourself;

Also We wish them to have any Apostolic dispensations obtained and awaited whatsoever; the kinds and values of these benefices; and the courses of these kinds of dispensations for pronouncement, and on these persons and each one of them, to whatever excommunications, suspensions, and interdictions, or other Ecclesiastical sentences, censures and punishments exist by law, or by any human occasion or broad case;

If by those in whatever way they are knotted up from the effect of validity [of Sacraments], We absolve them from these grave matters, following the making of the nomination to them; and We wish them to be absolved; and We announce it in each cathedral (except Liege, which is run by Our dear son Erardus, titular Cardinal Priest of St. Chrysogonus) and in each college church which has been conferred Canons and prebends by the Apostolic Privilege on the towns, lands, and villages in your patrimony of Flanders which remain subject to you….

[And it goes on from there, as the Pope basically gives the king authority to run a recruiting drive for getting clergy to come to the New World Pretty much anybody clerical is encouraged to come, and in return they get absolved of everything bad they’ve done or whatever canon law legal trouble they’re in, back in Europe. So it’s sorta like the Crusades or the Wild West  for picking his own clergy for Flanders. Also the “dear son” bit is in the pastoral sense, not the biological one.]

This isn’t a teaching document; it’s a grant of permissions and privileges to one particular person and his kingdom, for the purpose of as a gesture of thanks for promoting missionary work and keeping “the work” safe.

UPDATE: As I get farther along, it seems that the point wasn’t even a recruiting drive. It was a quid pro quo – in exchange for Charles V’s hard work in the New World and the Indian Ocean mission areas, he was being rewarded with the privilege of being able to appoint anybody he named to any church post in Flanders (except the ones at the cathedral parish of St. Chrysogonus in Liege, apparently). Since church posts came with money, and since some of them could be held by laypeople, you got stuff like noblemen who got the title of a canon and were paid to be a canon, but who had hired somebody else to actually do the work of being a canon. (I don’t know much about this, though.) Likewise, there were priests who were in charge of multiple parishes on paper, but who actually had somebody else as their deputies doing the work. (There could be legitimate reasons for this, but there were also abuses.) So it looks like this letter is tied into this sort of patronage system; but of course, it could also be something political, since there was a lot of wrangling going on with the Dutch and the English in Flanders and the rest of the “Low Countries.”

The bright spot is that this finally explains why this letter was in a Louvain charter book. The Pope says he’ll be sending out copies of the letter to quiet down any bitching by “contradictores.” Since the bishops and local houses of religious orders would obviously prefer to pick their own people, there were going to be lots of those.

Here’s a first draft translation of part of the rest of this sucker.

On pages 77-78:

… We announce it in each cathedral (except Liege, which is run by Our dear son Erardus, titular Cardinal Priest of St. Chrysogonus) and in each college church which has been conferred Canons and prebends by the Apostolic Privilege on the towns, lands, and villages in your patrimony of Flanders which remain subject to you: a canonicate and a prebend, and a position or personate, administration, or office; even if the positions, personates, administrations, and offices of this sort are also curated and elective; and whatever taxes or payments of value would arise of that profit, payback, and result; provided that somehow the positions in the principal Collegiate Churches of this kind, and also the canonicate and prebends, personates, administrations, and offices of it reserved generally to that kind of Apostolic disposition; or they would not appear to be affected out of the general Apostolic reservation for comparison, provision, presentation, election, or whatever other disposition of whoever bishops or other contributors or gatherers in the aforesaid towns, villages, and lands of your patrimony of Flanders, and not of beloved sons of chapters, and of each of the canons and collegiate persons, and of the other churches; also for reason of the positions, personates, administrations, or offices which they maintain in them; the things belonging to them in common or separately; whether they will be unoccupied by doings of this kind at the time of nomination, or when also in any thing or things out of the months through Us, to the Ordinaries, contributors, and gatherers, through our ordinance or through others or with other letters of the Apostolic Bishops, and not by other contributors and gatherers, under whatever form of words; and also with whatever clauses or modifying modifiers; and other such things which are to them; except under the specific fixed form and also individually with name and position. Also the Archbishops may not modify it by expression as it pleases them to be permitted and to permit, that they will be vacant at the same time or successively, that the same nominated person by himself, or his agents in this for him, be appointed specially of them wherever he likes, further than by the space of one month; after which, the privilege of whichever of them or of those same agents of his will be made known; they will be considered to have accepted it; after an acceptance of this kind, it will be assigned to these same nominated persons along with all their rights and concerns, their donation, at least to the extent of this exchange, along with Our authority to reserve it; and also from these aforesaid nominated persons which he may create for any of the canonical churches of the preceding; so that for them at that point, prebends or positions are reserved; through you, it will come to pass to these nominated ones. One may assign the canonicates of these previously mentioned churches with the fullness of the authority of canon law, and one may also make provision out of them, and one may make these persons be received into the aforesaid canonical churches, either as brothers or in whichever of the choir stalls, or in a place in the chapter of all these churches, with the aforesaid bestowed fullness of the law; and neither the bishops, canons, persons, contributors, or gatherers, either them or those for them, or those for whom the contribution, provision, presentation, or whatever other disposition in common or separately of positions, personates, and administrations may pertain to those canonicates and prebends; lest from them meanwhile also, before the acceptance of the same, unless after one reckons it to them that the persons nominated by Your Majesty to that, or their agents of the same sort, will not accept it, they may presume to dispose in any way, more concerned to restrain an aggravating decree; and neither shall any canonicate [presume to dispose of] either prebends or positions and personates, administrations, and offices of this kind which one will reserve; and if they will be vacant or when they will have been vacant, that one will favor the same persons nominated by you with all the rights and previously mentioned belongings; after their acceptances, to assign them by the previously mentioned authority; and also to provide for them; and neither to bring in by themselves or any other or others than by the same persons nominated by you, or by the agents of those of them nominated by you, into the bodily possession of the canonicates and prebends, or the positions, personates, administrations, or offices; or to the aforesaid rights and appurtenances; and to defend those brought in; and to admit them to the positions, personates, administrations, or offices of this kind, as is custom; and to make honest answer for all the profits and paybacks, results, rights, and obventions; to restrain the disregard of those who object with the authority of Our name, and from whatever lawsuits and cases may occur between nominees and other persons occurring at the time, on the occasion of the reservation and restraint and collation; and to recognize this at the first instance to that point; and to end and finish the year without debt still remaining; at which being lapsed, one may transfer the case of any litigants to the Roman Curia court.

And indeed when twelve persons are named, so that whichever of them may occupy one when another one is without [an office] to him, and another having occupied nothing from the aforesaid persons….

It goes on and on like this, for pages and pages. So yeah, not riveting reading, but obviously it pays to read the whole context and not just guess by skimming.


“Dignitates” are also called “Ecclesiastical dignitaries.” The Catholic Encyclopedia says that is: “a member of a chapter, cathedral or collegiate, possessed not only of a foremost place, but also of a certain jurisdiction. These dignitates, as they are called, are usually the provost and the dean, sometimes also the custos and the scholasticus. Their nomination and canonical institution, to a great extent reserved to the pope, are governed partly by common ecclesiastical law, partly by special legislation (e.g. concordats) and custom.”

A “personatus” is also called an “Ecclesiastical person.” These people have “a special tie with the Church” and have “a fixed right of precedence” without any jurisdiction. The McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia adds that they are: “canons holding office with precedence in chapter and choir after dignitaries, either by institution or custom. A dignitary was also a ‘person’ because his person was honored, and he was a person constituted in dignity.”

“Officia” are offices in a chapter of canons, such as “canon theologian” and “canon penitentiary,” but “these places imply only an administrative charge or duty.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains how cathedral chapters work:

“A cathedral chapter constitutes a moral body or corporation. Inasmuch as it is an ecclesiastical corporation it can be erected only by the pope, according to the prevailing discipline. The chapter can be considered as forming one body with the bishop, in as far as it constitutes his senate and aids him in the government of his diocese; or as forming a body distinct from the bishop, having its own regulations and interests. Viewed under the first aspect the cathedral chapter has the bishop for its head; under the last, it has its own proper superior. Taking the chapter in the strict sense, however, canonists generally declare that the bishop must always be distinguished from it; nor can he be called a member of the chapter. Anciently, the principal dignitary of the chapter was the archdeacon, but from the eleventh century the dean, who was also archpriest, had the internal government of the chapter. In some countries this dignitary is called the provost. The collation to canonries, by common law, pertains to the bishop and the chapter conjointly, unless in the case of such canonships as are papal reservations. The nomination of the head of the chapter belongs to the pope. In some countries, as Austria, Bavaria, Spain and until recently France, the Government, in virtue of concordats or ancient privileges, has the right of nomination to some or all of the vacant canonries.
List of officials of a chapter:

At the head of the chapter as a corporate body, is a president who, as before said, is called in different countries by various names, though the prevailing one is that of dean. The duty of this official is to convoke the chapter and preside over it. He is also to see that the canonical statutes are observed in all that relates to capitular meetings and the choir service. The chapter appoints a treasurer, a secretary, and a sacristan. The Council of Trent decreed (Sess. V, Cap. i) that a canon theologian should be constituted in cathedral churches. His office is to explain the Holy Scripture and the dogmas of the Faith, and also to treat questions pertaining to moral theology. A canon penitentiary is likewise to be appointed (Sess. XXIV, cap. viii) with power to hear confessions in the whole diocese. As to other dignitaries or officials of the chapter, there is no uniformity among the various capitular bodies. The Council of Trent approved of this variety (Sess. XXV, cap. vi), and hence the peculiar statutes or customs of each chapter or diocese or country must be examined to know what dignitaries, in addition to those mentioned, form part of the capitular body. Among such other officials may be named the custos, primicerius, portarius, precentor, hospitalarius, eleemosynarius or almoner, and camerarius or chamberlain. Punctator and hebdomadarius are not distinct offices but special functions committed to certain canons.

A “prebend” is defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia as: “The right of a member of a chapter to his share in the revenues of the cathedral; also the share to which he is entitled; in general, any portion of the cathedral revenues set aside for the support of the clergy attached to it (semi-prebends) even for those who are not members of the chapter. They are regarded as benefices and governed by the same laws.

A “collator” is someone who presents a member of the clergy to a benefice.

A “procurator” or “promoter” lowers the boom on clerics, for the bishop.

UPDATE: More translation of the bull “Intra Arcana.”

Pages 78-79:

…and the others occupy whichever [one of] two curacies; or if the ecclesiastical benefice is incompatible in turn with others, even if parochial ones of the Church; or perpetual vicariates; or dignities, personates, administrations, or offices in cathedrals; or likewise of metropolitans or colleges and their dignities; which others obtain/occupy in cathedrals or likewise in metropolitans after the major pontificals; or in collegiate churches after the same kind of principals; or if such things exist mixedly; and [if] they would have been accustomed to dignities, personates, administrations, or offices of this kind which were assumed through election/choice; and it would threaten the care of souls. However, one of them, whichever one of them with vigor in the present circumstances, is bestowed or chosen, handed or selected, for it and instituted in it, will reside there to receive and at the same time retain it, and that at the same time or successively; simply or by reason of exchange; as often as it may be please you to dismiss any of these twelve persons, and in the place of the dismissed one or ones, another or others, the same or different ecclesiastical benefice or the same or different ecclesiastical benefices; similarly will reside in no more than two incompatible ones in turn to receive them, and until he will reside there he will retain them as is preferred [by you].

Likewise, indeed, when twelve persons shall be named who shall have fully reached twenty years of age, for whichever dignity, personate, or administration for care, or office, and which also will be allowed a defect of birth or likewise to have been born from a discreditable sexual union; if others be capable for the same kind of dignities and whatever other benefices, if they may be conferred on those with vigor in the present circumstances, they may prevail to receive and retain it; and when those with the same kind of defects, if they be not sufficiently dispensed for the aforesaid defects, either according to the constitutions of the general Lateran, or the Council of Poitiers, or any other Apostolic constitutions and ordinances or statutes; but being opposed in no way according to the abovesaid customary practices, to dispense them [from defects of birth, illegitimacy, etc.] by authority; and anyone of these nominated persons [whom you please] may be the executors sent ahead, where and when it may be necessary and expedient. All and each of them who are sent ahead shall be able to licitly and freely do, dispose, ordain, and carry out what is necessary and opportune both to those sent ahead and those around them; and We concede them the full and free faculty that they should have the power [to do this].

Desiring by your other contemplation, so that the persons nominated by you may come into effect as quickly as possible at present, by a similar movement of completely adequate persons, We also grant it to each of them that are in waiting for canonicates and prebends, and dignities, personates, administrations and offices, by the same kind of understanding; those who are to be received into the Canons for the same kind of benefices, and who will have been accepted; and any gifts and promotions for the more diligent; and any prerogatives,
privileges, indults, favors, and graces of previous rights [antelationum] also in the name of universities, chapters, colleges, and individual persons; also to similar movements, and to those under any forms of words, and with anything also leading back to the common law [jus commune], and with other modifying derogators and favorable clauses, and to the like [instar] of Our familiar [established] descriptors; whether by greater or stronger or anything else; through anything which shall exist with their dignities, states, grades, or conditions; and anything named, and perhaps that will be named, for their resplendent dignity; and for those who by special reservations, unions, annexions, and incorporations get first dibs [de primo] on canonicates and prebends, dignities, personates, administrations or offices that will become vacant; with the irritating restraint or decree under any form of words, through you or through the aforesaid See, that has perhaps already been made, or those which will be imposed; although those awaiting or other nominated or to-be-nominated [persons], or those for whom special reservations, unions, annexions, and incorporations of the same kind will have arisen temporarily [pro tempore]; there will exist illustrious [persons] and graduates of whatever kind, and also the Notaries of Our See and those of others; and those sharing [in their work]; and Subdeacon Auditors of the cases of the Apostolic Palaces; Clerks of the Apostolic Chambers; Presidencies of letters by ancestry; abbreviators, scriptors, and anyone whoever who have been attendant commensals to Us; and about those by proper names, and cognomens, and also all those with a sustained course of graces, previous rights, prerogatives, privileges, and indults which We wish to have at present for those expressed; [if] the specific and express mention may have existed, it will be in existence….

This thing ends on page 82, so you can see that there’s quite a lot of legal stuff still to go through.

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