( Precept: From the Latin præceptum from præcipere , to command).
Precept , in its common acceptation, is opposed to counsel , inasmuch as the former imposes an obligation, while the latter is a persuasion. In ecclesiastical jurisprudence, the word precept is used:
- In opposition to law. A law is always binding, even after the death of the legislator until it is revoked ; a precept is obligatory only during the lifetime or office of the precipient. A law directly affects the territory of the legislator, and thence passes to the subjects dwelling in it; a precept directly affects the persons of the inferiors and is independent of locality. Finally, a law is promulgated for a whole community, present and future, while a precept is directed to individuals and ceases with them.
- As a term in extra-judicial processes. When a grave fault has been committed by a cleric, it is the duty of the bishop, after making an informal inquiry into the matter, to give the delinquent two successive monitions or warnings. If he does not thereupon amend, the bishop proceeds to the issuance of a canonical precept, as directed by the Decree "Cum Magnopere" (1884). The precept, under pain of nullity, must be in writing, state plainly what is to be done or avoided by the delinquent, and mention the specific punishment to be inflicted if the precept go unheeded. The accused is then cited before the chancellor of the episcopal court, and the latter, in presence of the vicar-general or two witnesses, ecclesiastical or lay, must serve the precept upon him. An official record of this fact is then to be drawn up and signed by all concerned, including the delinquent if he so wishes. The witnesses may be bound by oath to observe secrecy as to the proceedings. If the accused contumaciously refuses to appear, the precept may be served upon him by a trust-worthy person or sent by registered mail. If even these measures are not possible, the precept may be posted publicly as an intimation to the delinquent. If he fails to amend after receiving the precept, a formal trial may then be instituted.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online