The English statute usually so designated is the 25th of Edward III, St. 4 (1350-1), otherwise termed "The Statute of Provisors of Benefices", or anciently "Statutu de p'visoribs" or "Lestatut de revâcons & pvis".
This was among the statutes incidental to the "long and angry controversy" [to quote Dr. Lingard, "The History of England" (London, 1883), III, 349] between the English kings and the Court of Rome concerning filling of ecclesiastical benefices by means of papal provisions "by which the Pope, suspending for the time the right of the patron, nominated of his own authority, to the vacant benefice " (op. cit., II, 416), the papal nominee being called a provisor.
The resulting possession by Italians of church livings in England provoked at one period during the thirteenth century acts of lawless violence (ibid.). Pope Gregory IX (1227-41) pronounced against the propriety of such provisions as interfered with the rights of lay patrons (ibid., 417). And Pope Innocent IV expressed, in 1253, general disapprobation of these nominations (ibid., 419).
From the recitals of "The Statute of Provisors" it appears that the bestowal by the pope of English benefices and ecclesiastical possessions "as if he had been patron or avowee . . . as he was not of right by law of England ", and his "accroching to him the seignories" was complained of as not only an illegal injury to the property rights of particular patrons, but also as injurious spiritually and economically to the community in general. The holy church of England, " seinte eglise d'Engleterre ", was said to have been founded by the sovereigns and the nobles to inform them and the people of the law of God and also to make hospitalities, alms, and other works of charity in the places where churches were founded, and possessions assigned for such purposes to prelates, religious, and other people of holy church; and these purposes were said to be defeated by this granting of benefices to aliens who did not, and to cardinals who might not, live in England "and to others as well aliens as denizens". Certain of the economic evils had been dealt with by a Statute of Edward I (35 Edward I, St. 1, c. 1, 1306-07), forbidding alien priors or governors of a religious house to impose charges or burdens on their houses and forbidding abbots, priors or other religious to send out of the kingdom any tax imposed on them. But the "Statute of Provisors" recites that the evils complained of in the petition leading to this Statute of Edward I still continue, and "that our holy father, the Pope " ( Notre seinte piere le Pape ), still reserves to his collation benefices in England, giving them to aliens and denizens and taking first fruits and other profits, the purchasers of benefices taking out of the kingdom a great part of its treasure. The Statute, therefore, enacts that elections of bishops shall be free, that owners of advowsons shall have free collation and presentment, and that attempted reservation, collation, or provision by the Court of Rome shall cause the right of collation to revert to the king.
Later Statutes are 27 Edward III, St. 1, c. 1; 38 Edward III, St. 2; 3 Richard II; 7 Richard II, c. XII; 12 Richard II, c. XV; 13 Richard II, St. 2; 16 Richard II, c. 5, and finally in the parliament of 1400-1, the Statute 2 Henry IV, c. 3, c. 4.
Concerning adverse legislation of the Council of Trent respecting provisions, see BENEFICE.
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