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Scrutiny

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(Latin scrutinium from scrutari to search, to investigate)

A term variously employed in canon law.

(1) In promotion to orders a scrutiny or examination of the candidate is to be made according to the warning of the Apostle : "Impose not hands lightly upon any man " ( 1 Timothy 5:22 ). That the practice is ancient is testified to by St. Cyprian (who died in 258) in his thirty-eighth epistle. The ninth canon of the Council of Nicæa (325) supposes the scrutiny of candidates to be already in use. Many later synods enforced and defined more exactly this scrutiny of those who aspired to orders. The present discipline is laid down by the Council of Trent (Sess. XXIII, Cap. v, de ref.), though its observance in every detail has not been reduced to practice in all countries. A three-fold scrutiny is ordered: first, through the inquiry into the qualities of the candidates by the parish priest and teachers and by public proclamation in the Church. The information thus obtained is to be embodied in a testimonial letter to the bishop. Secondly, shortly before ordination through the bishop himself and ecclesiastical persons appointed to examine into the morals, faith, and doctrine of the candidates. Thirdly, through the ceremonial form prescribed by the Pontificale Romanum for the ordination of a deacon or priest.

(2) Scrutiny is also a form of ecclesiastical election and is made either by written ballot or by pronouncing the chosen name before legitimate scrutators alone. It is the usual form for electing the pope.

(3) Scrutiny is also the term for the examination of catechumens before baptism. In ancient times there were three such scrutinies and later on the number was increased to seven. From the Middle Ages onwards owing to the fact that most who received baptism were infants the prescribed scrutinies were reduced to that now found in the ritual for conferring baptism. The subject-matter of these scrutinies was the faith and dispositions of the candidate.


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