Devolution, Right of

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The right of collation (collatio) of an ecclesiastical benefice that an extraordinary collator exercises by default of the ordinary collator. The concept has its origins in steps taken by the General Councils of the 12th and 13th centuries to ensure that benefices, particularly those with a pastoral care attached, were not collated casually or allowed to remain vacant for too long. Thus, when the Third lateran council in 1179 determined the qualities required in clerics collated to deaneries, parish churches, etc., it added that if a bishop in a given case failed to observe these conditions, then a fresh collation was to be made by his chapter, or, in the event of a similar failure on the part of the chapter, by the metropolitan (c.3: Conciliorum oecumenicorum decreta (Bologna-Freiburg 1962) 188189; Corpus iurus canonici, ed. E. Friedberg (Leipzig 187981; repr. Graz 1955) X 1.6.7). Further, the council legislated for protracted vacancies (c.8: ibid. 191; Corpus iurus canonici, X 3.8.2): should a bishop neglect to collate someone within six months to any benefice of which he was patron, his right in that case passed to his chapter; if, on the other hand, a similar situation occurred with respect to a collation belonging to the chapter, then the bishop was to step in; finally, when both bishop and-chapter failed in either case to fill the benefice, their metropolitan had to take over the collation (for a later refinement see the decree Postulasti of Innocent III in 1212: Corpus iurus canonici, X 3.8.15). Reiterating previous legislation on the accumulation of dignities and parochial churches, this same council also ordained (c.13: ibid. 194; Corpus iurus canonici, X 3.4.3) that any patron collating a cleric who already possessed a dignity or a parochial church was thereby deprived of the right to the collation in question; and that if lay founders of churches or their heirs could not agree within three months of a vacancy upon whom to collate to a particular church of lay foundation, the local bishop was to make the collation (c.17: ibid. 196; Corpus iurus canonici, X 3.38.3). A generation later the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) made further provision for devolution, decreeing that an ordinary collator of any benefice forfeited by a pluralist had to make a new collation within three months, otherwise his right of collation would "devolve" to another collator (c.29: ibid. 224; Corpus iurus canonici, X 3.5.28). More importantly, the council ordered that a failure on the part of the clergy of a cathedral church, whether secular or regular, to elect a new bishop within three months of a vacancy, entailed the transference of "the power of electing" to the immediate ecclesiastical superior, who in turn had three months in which to act (c.23: ibid. 222; Corpus iurus canonici X 1.6.41). Apart from this constitution, the regulations of the Third and Fourth Lateran Councils on collation did not affect benefices in the collation of monastic (i.e., regular) establishments until the Council of vienne in 1311 (Conciliorum oecumenicorum decreta (Bologna-Freiburg 1962) 338339. Nowhere in conciliar legislation was a right of devolution granted to the papacy, but in practice there are many instances of the papacy's exercising such a power, e.g., in the pontificate of Pope Innocent III.

Bibliography: g. j. ebers, Das Devolutionsrecht vornehmlich nach katholischem Kirchenrecht (Stuttgart 1906). t. ortolan, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 4.1:674678. g. mollat, La Collation des bénéfices ecclésiastiques sous les papes d'Avignon (Paris 1921); Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. r. naz, 7 v. (Paris 193565) 2: 414415. É. jombart, Catholicisme 3:708710. w. m. plÖchl, Geschichte des Kirchenrechts, v.2 (Vienna 1954) 178.

[l. e. boyle]