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Episcopal Subsidies

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( Latin subsidia , tribute, pecuniary aid, subvention)

Since the faithful are obliged to contribute to the support of religion, especially in their own diocese, a bishop may ask contributions for diocesan needs from his own subjects, and particularly from the clergy. These offerings as far as possible should be voluntary, rather than taxes or assessments strictly so called. Of the contributions given to bishops, some are ordinary, made annually or at stated times; others are extraordinary, given as special circumstances demand. Under ordinary subsidies are classed the cathedraticum , a fixed sum given annually to the bishop from the income of the churches of the diocese, and which in the United States constitutes the chief revenue of bishops ; census , or pensions, which a bishop may impose at times in accordance with the law ; hospitality or procuration ( procuratio , comestio , circada , albergaria ) extended to the bishop and his assistants canonically visiting the diocese ; contributions ( seminaristicum , alumnaticum ) for the support of diocesan seminaries, or for the education of ecclesiastical students; fees of the chancery office ( jus sigilli: see TAXA INNOCENTIANA). In regard to the maintenance of students for the priesthood, in some dioceses of the United States an annual collection is made of the voluntary offerings of the people; in others an assessment is imposed on each parish. Chancery fees go to meet the expenses of the office; the surplus, if any, is employed in charitable works, and not for the bishop personally. Formerly there too was a share falling to the bishop from legacies, bequests, etc. ( quarta mortuaria , quarta funerum , quarta episcopalis , portio canonica ), and likewise a portion of the tithes ( quarta decimarum , quarta decimatio ), which accrued to the churches of the diocese.

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The chief extraordinary tax, which a bishop may levy, is a charitable subsidy ( subsidium caritativum ). This may be asked from all churches and benefices, secular or regular not exempt, and from clerics possessing benefices, but not from lay persons. The following conditions must be observed. There must be a reasonable and evident cause for the subsidy, as, for example, to meet the necessary expenses of the bishop's consecration, his visit ad limina , attendance at a general council, prosecuting the rights of the diocese, or for the general good of the diocese ; this extraordinary tax, however, is permissible only when other means are wanting (S. C. C., 17 Feb., 1663); the exaction, though varying according to the need in question, must be moderate, the amount being determined chiefly by custom ; the advice of the cathedral chapter or the diocesan consultors must be obtained; the poor are not to be taxed. In Italy it is only when taking formal possession of his see that a bishop is free to exact this tribute (Taxa Innocentiana, 8 Oct. 1678); on other occasions the consent of the Holy See is required. Although the subvention is asked in the name of charity, it is binding, and delinquents may be compelled by ecclesiastical punishments to meet this obligation. Such a tax, if imposed for the benefit of the pope, is called Peter's pence. Patriarchs, primates, or metropolitans are not allowed such tribute from the dioceses of their suffragan bishops. Abbots and religious superiors, through privilege or custom, may exact a similar subsidy from their monasteries or communities for the evident good of their orders. The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (n. 20) declares that a bishop, having consulted his diocesan advisers, must have recourse to Rome, if a new tax is to be imposed for the bishop beyond what is allowed in common law.


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