Burchard, Decretum of
BURCHARD, DECRETUM OF
burchard of worms wrote his Decretum (Liber Decretorum, Brocardus ) between 1007 and 1015. He profited from the help of Walter, Bishop of Spire, and Olbert of Gembloux, who was a monk of the Abbey of Lobbes. The Decretum is composed of 1,758 chapters divided into 20 books: the first 18 contain a complete outline of canonical prescriptions followed in that time. Book 19 (Corrector sive Medicus ) is penitential, and the 20th (Liber Speculationum, Speculator ) treats of dogmatic questions especially on eschatology.
Sources. The sources for the Decretum are mainly the Collection of Regino of Prüm (600 texts), the ansel mo dedicata (300 texts), the Dionysio-Hadriana, the false decretals, the councils of the 9th century, the episcopal Capitula (Theodolph of Orléans, Haito of Basel, Herard of Tours), the Collectio hibernensis and some penitentials (Theodore, rabanus maurus, Halitgaire), and finally, extracts of works of SS. Gregory the Great, Isidore of Seville, and Augustine. Texts of Roman law are rare; on the other hand, almost 90 fragments come from authentic Carolingian capitulars or from apocrypha of benedict the levite.
Burchard used his sources very freely; he modified almost 600 inscriptions and even, at times, altered the substance of the documents, to adapt them to contemporary discipline or to promulgate his own ideas for reform.
Contents. Burchard's central idea is that necessary reforms must be worked out by the episcopate, aided in its task by secular power. Toward the Holy See, occupied at that time by the energetic Benedict VIII (1012–24), Burchard has the greatest respect; he recognizes pontifical primacy and the role of the pope as legislator, guarantor of councils (1.42, 179), and guide of Christianity. But this deference for principle does not prevent Burchard from defending the rights of bishops; he pretends to ignore monastic exemptions (8.66) and does not admit that the faithful have recourse to Rome to defeat the decisions of their bishops (2.80). The bishop, head of the local church, may not be judged by the secular power; it is the provincial council (not only the metropolitan one) and, on appeal, the pope, who judges such matters.
The bishop must promote the dignity of life of his clergy. Burchard condemns the marriage of clerics who have taken major orders, but does not ask the faithful to boycott the Sacraments of married priests (2.108). He condemns all forms of simony and avarice but readmits guilty clerics to the functions of their order after they have done penance and have returned to a worthy life (19.42).
Burchard attempts to ensure the morality of the Christian people by proclaiming the indissolubility of marriage (he admits, however, some cases of remarriage after divorce: 17.10, 11; 19.5). He condemns private vengeance, drunkenness, and superstition. True guide of confessors, his Corrector contributed to refining the moral sense and individualizing penance: diversitas culparum diversitatem facit paenitentibus medicamentorum (19.8).
The Decretum of Burchard, signed with the seal of pastoral realism, conservative and conciliating, had a large and rapid diffusion. Through the collections of ivo of chartres, his work entered the Decretum of gratian.
Bibliography: p. fournier and g. lebras, Histoire des collections canoniques en occident depuis les fausses décrétales jusqu'au Décret de Gratien, 2 v. (Paris 1931–32) 1:364–421. j. pÉtrau-gay, Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. r. naz, 7 v. (Paris 1935–65) 2:1142–57. p. fournier, "Études critiques sur le Décret de Burchard de Worms," Nouvelle revue historique de droit franç et étranger 34 (1910) 41–112, 291–331, 564–584; "Le Décret de Burchard de Worms: Ses caractères, son influence," Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 12 (1911) 451–473, 670–701. o. meyer, "Ueberlieferung und Verbreitung des Dekrets des Bischofs Burchard yon Worms," Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte Kanonistische Abteilung 24 (1935) 144–180.