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The various methods of designating persons for ecclesiastical benefices or offices have been described under BENEFICE; BISHOP; ELECTION; CANONICAL INSTITUTION. All these methods are more or less included in the ordinary sense of the term nomination; but in its strict canonical sense, nomination is defined as the designation of a person for an ecclesiastical benefice or office made by the competent civil authority and conferring on the person named the right to be canonically instituted by the ecclesiastical superior. It follows the rules of patronal presentation, being based on the same grounds as the right of patronage, viz., the endowment of churches or benefices by kings, princes, or communities. Its method of action is designed to keep the prerogatives of the two powers clearly separated, the intervention of the secular power taking effect in the free choice of a fit person, the spiritual jurisdiction being reserved intact to the ecclesiastical superior, who alone can give canonical institution. At the present time appointments to benefices by right of nomination, especially to bishoprics, is generally settled by negotiation and previous understanding between the two powers. Under the old regime the nominated person himself applied for canonical institution; the superior made inquiry as to the applicant and, unless the inquiry disclosed unworthiness or unfitness, granted canonical institution according to the customary forms—most often by consistorial preconization. Whatever procedure may be followed, the person named by the civil power has no spiritual jurisdiction until he has been canonically instituted; and if he should dare to intrude in the administration of the diocese with no other title than his nomination by the secular authority, not only would all his acts be null and void, but he, and with him those who should have consented to his acts, would incur excommunication and other penalties; moreover, he would forfeit the right resulting from his nomination (Const. "Romanus pontifex", 28 Aug., 1873, and the texts there cited. Cf. EXCOMMUNICATION, vol. V, p. 691, col. 1).

The most important application of the right of nomination by princes is, without doubt, that which relates to the major or consistorial, benefices, especially bishoprics. Without going back to the intrusions of royal power in episcopal elections in the barbarian kingdoms, or in the Carlovingian Empire, or the Byzantine, it must be remembered that the Concordat of Worms (1121), which ended the Conflict of Investitures, included an initial measure for the separation of the parts and prerogatives of the two powers in the choice of bishops. The emperor recognized the freedom of episcopal elections and consecrations; the pope, on his side, agreed that elections should be held in the emperor's presence, without simony or restraint, that the emperor should decide in case of dispute, that he should give temporal investiture, by the sceptre, to the bishop-elect, while investiture by ring and crosier, symbolic of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, should be combined with the consecration. The custom of election of bishops by chapters, which was the common law of the thirteenth century, left, officially, no opening for royal interference, but princes none the less endeavoured to have their candidates elected. This became more difficult for them when, by successive reservations, the popes had made themselves masters of all episcopal elections, thus occasioning serious inconveniences. While in Germany the Concordat of 1448 re-established capitular elections, in France, on the contrary, after the difficulties consequent upon the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438), the quarrel ended with the Concordat of 1516. In this instrument we find the right of nomination guaranteed to the kings of France for consistorial benefices, bishoprics, abbacies, and priorates; and thence the arrangement passed into most of the subsequent concordats, including that of 1801 (cf. Nussi, "Quinquaginta conventiones", Rome, 1869, tit. v). The royal ordinance of Francis I promulgating the Bull of Leo X says: "Such vacancy occurring, the King of France shall be bound to present and name [the Bull says only nobis nominabit] a master … and otherwise fit, within six months … that we may appoint his nominee to the vacant see." If this person is rejected, the king will nominate another within three months; if not, the pope can himself appoint. The same right of nomination is extended to abbacies and priorates, with some exceptions. The Concordat of 1801 (articles 4 and 5) accords to the First Consul the same right of nomination, but only for bishoprics, and without fixing a limit of time for its exercise. In other countries (e.g. Spain) the right of the temporal ruler includes other benefices besides bishoprics.

Such being the nature of the very definite right of nomination, nothing but malicious provocation can be discerned in the conflict brought on by M. Combes, when Prime Minister of France (1902-5), in regard to the nobis nominavit, the expression which figured in the Bulls for French bishops. By a note dated 21 Dec., 1902, the French Government demanded the suppression of the nobis, as if to make it appear that the head of the State nominated bishops absolutely, like government officials. The Vatican explained the true nature of the nomination as the designation of a person by the head of the State, the latter indicating to the pope the cleric whom he desires as head of such a diocese, the pope accordingly creating that candidate bishop by canonical institution. The fact was pointed out that the word nobis is found in the episcopal Bulls of all nations which have by concordat the right of nomination; also that, with very rare exceptions, it appears in all the Bulls for France under the Concordat of 1516 as under that of 1801; that previously, in 1871, the French Government having obtained without any difficulty the suppression of the word præsentavit, had, upon representations made by Rome, withdrawn its demand for the suppression of the nobis; above all, it was insisted on that the letters patent of the French Government to the pope had from time immemorial contained the words: "We name him [the candidate] and present him to Your Holiness, that it may please Your Holiness, upon our nomination and presentation, to provide for the said bishopric", etc. The Vatican nevertheless declared that it did not desire to refuse any satisfactory revision; various formulæ were proposed on either side, without success; at last the Holy See consented to suppress the word nobis employing the usual formula in drafting letters patent. (On this conflict see the "Livre Blanc du Saint Siège"; vi, in "Acta S. Sedis", 15 Jan., 1906.) This concession, as we know, did not delay the separation which the French Government was determined to have at any price. (See BENEFICE; BISHOP; CONCORDAT; ELECTION; INSTITUTION.)


Canonists on the title De præbendis, III, v; HÉRICOURT, Loix ecclésiastiques de France, E, IV; CAVAGNIS, Institutiones juris ecclesiastici, II (Rome, 1906), 13, 256; SÉVESTRE, L'histoire, le texte et la destinée du Concordat de 1801 (Paris, 1905); VERING, Kirchenrecht (Freiburg im Br., 1893), § 86; SÄGMÜLLER, Lehrbuch des kath. Kirchengeschichte (Freiburg, 1909), § 73 sq.

About this page

APA citation. Boudinhon, A. (1911). Nomination. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Boudinhon, Auguste. "Nomination." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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