Capitulations were agreements, by which those taking part in the election of a bishop or pope imposed special conditions upon the candidate to be fulfilled by him after his election. Episcopal capitulations owe their origin to the fact that since the eleventh and twelfth centuries the real election of bishops was restricted to the canons of cathedral chapters, who were anxious to curtail the prerogatives or the income of the bishops, and to secure for themselves privileges or larger revenues. Since the early part of the thirteenth century the canons of Mains agreed amongst themselves not to elect a bishop unless he promised beforehand to exact no financial contributions from the clergy. Such capitulations became practically universal throughout Germany, where the election of bishops remained in the hands of cathedral chapters. In the diet held at Nuremberg in 1522 the chapters were condemned for extorting such concessions from the bishops. If these capitulations contain conditions which curtail the jurisdiction or the prerogatives of the bishop, the privileges of the diocese, or the like, then they do not bind the candidate-elect, even if he has taken an oath to carry them out; the canons have no jurisdiction in such matters. Several papal declarations forbade them and pronounced them invalid; thus the Constitution "Contingit" of Nicholas III (1277-80) in the "Liber Sextus" (II, tit., xi, 1); Pius V (1566-72) "Durum nimis", 31 May, 1570; Gregory XIII (1572-85) "Inter apostolicas", 5 September, 1584; Innocent XII (1691-1700) "Ecclesiæ Catholicæ", 22 September, 1695; and Benedict XIV (1740-58) "Pastoralis regiminis", 15 July, 1754. Severe penalties were imposed on those who should act contrary to these instructions, viz., suspension for those in the episcopal order, interdict for the chapters, and excommunication for their individual members. Still the capitulations were maintained in Germany, partly because the constitution of ecclesiastical states was often based on them; partly because such privileges of the chapters were acknowledged by the "Instrumentum pacis", or Treaty of Osnabrück (1648); and partly because the emperors at the beginning of their reigns promised to protect the customary usages of the chapters.
The papal capitulations arose in about the same manner when, from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the election of a pope was reserved to the cardinals. The first authentic example occurred when Innocent VI (1352-62) was chosen pope. The conditions then laid down by the cardinals restricted the rights of the future pope, especially with regard to the nomination, punishment, or deposition of cardinals, the appointment to positions in the papal provinces, and the administration of temporalities — in all of which the cardinals wished to have a voice. Similar but more far-reaching capitulations were entered into at the election of Eugene IV (1431-47), at the election of Pius II (1458-64), at the election of Paul II (1464-71), and at the election of Innocent VIII (1484-92). These papal capitulations were likewise forbidden and pronounced null and void. Innocent VI, in the Constitution "Sollicitudo" of the year 1353, rejected as not binding upon him the capitulation entered into at the time of his own election. Innocent VIII believed that he was not bound to observe those conditions of the capitulation which were contrary to the prerogatives of the head of the Church. More general declarations are contained in the Constitution "Ubi periculum" of Gregory X (1271-76), published in 1274; in the "In eligendis", published by Pius IV (1559-65), 9 October, 1562; and in the "Æterni Patris" of Gregory XV (1621-23), 15 November, 1621.
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