The Latin Rite, or Latin Church as it is called in canon 1 of the Code of canon law, is the part of the Church that follows the roman rite in liturgy, has its own special canonical discipline, and is subject to the bishop of Rome as patriarch of the West. (see rome, patriarchate of.)
History. At the beginning of the Christian Era, the disciplinary rules of the Church varied from one country to another and even from one community to another. Ecclesiastical laws applicable to a particular area were formulated only during the fourth and fifth centuries with the development of the patriarchates.
Early Development. Endowed with jurisdiction over a specified and often large territory, the patriarchs enjoyed a wide autonomy in most matters of administrative and disciplinary order. Juridically the preeminence of the patriarchal sees over areas was recognized for the first time at the Council of Nicaea I (c. 6) in 325, confirmed by the Council of Constantinople I (c. 2) in 381, and reconfirmed by the Council of Chalcedon (c. 28) in 451. Constantinople I and Chalcedon extended the patriarchal privilege to the See of Constantinople and to the See of Jerusalem. The patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem became the chiefs of all the bishops of Egypt and the Near East, their jurisdiction corresponding roughly to the Praefectura Orientis created by Diocletian for the East. The Western prefectures of the empire, Italy, Gaul, and Illyricum, made up the Roman patriarchate. Each patriarchate organized itself, held synods, enacted laws, and created its own particular canonical discipline.
Notwithstanding the decree of Nicaea, in the fourth and fifth centuries the Roman patriarchate did not wield a very wide authority outside Italy and especially outside the ten suburbicarian provinces of the city of Rome, where the pope exercised all the powers of a true metropolitan. A progressive centralization in the administrative and disciplinary order was to come in the West, but in the sixth century such centralized power as becomes a real patriarch was not exercised by the bishop of Rome in the Latin Church. Rome did not seem to care very much for the title of patriarch, contenting itself with the attributes of primacy.
Before St. Leo the Great (440–461), a few steps were taken tending toward administrative and disciplinary centralization under Rome. Legates of the pope were sent to certain troubled areas in the Church, as in the case of the creation of the Vicariate Apostolic of Illyricum and of the establishment of the short-lived Vicariate Apostolic of Arles in France. But nearly everywhere in the Western Church—in northern Italy, in Spain, in Africa—the local authorities retained practically all jurisdiction in the administrative order.
Definitive Establishment. The pontificate of St. Leo marked real progress toward centralization, although the onslaught of the barbarians marching through southern Europe did bring about a pause in the unifying movement. Yet the trend revived with new vigor after the conversion of England by missionaries who were sent by Rome and remained under the influence of the Roman
Church. Indirectly, through the English monks, the authority of the pope even in matters of discipline was increased all over Europe. From England came the apostles of Germany, the ecclesiastical counselors of the first Carolingians, and the whole centralizing movement that, ridding the Latin Church of all the complications brought about by local primacies and national churches, was to unite in the hands of the bishop of Rome many of the powers exercised previously by the local Churches.
Although in most countries (e.g., Africa, Spain, and France) for several centuries the local episcopacies enjoyed a large measure of autonomy in administrative and disciplinary matters, even in those days great authority was attributed to Rome. The intervention of the bishop of Rome as head of the Western Church was not infrequently solicited to solve thorny or more difficult problems of a local nature. Some of the appeals to Rome against certain decisions of metropolitans and particular synods are well known: the affair of Bishop Marcianus of Arles (the right to excommunicate a bishop recognized as belonging to the bishop of Rome by the bishops of Gaul and of Carthage), the case of the Spanish bishops of Mérida and Astorga (a deposed bishop appealed to Rome against the synodal sentence condemning him), and the controversy centering around St. Cyprian in Africa. Nevertheless, at the time of St. Leo the Great, centralization in the Western Church had made very little headway; and Rome, which did not intervene in episcopal ordinations, particular councils, and the like, had no power comparable to that exercised by Alexandria over Egypt.
Among the causes that contributed considerably to increase the power of the bishop of Rome and to consolidate the centralizing trend in administrative matters were two initiatives of major importance. The pope began to take a more direct hand in cases concerning the erection and division of dioceses. Examples of such interventions can be traced as far back as the fourth and fifth centuries in Italy, in Burgundy, and in Gaul; but the intervention of Rome later became a more regular practice. At the end of the eleventh century, such interventions constituted an accepted principle of canon law. The right to erect, unite, or divide dioceses was reserved to the pope, as evidenced from a letter of Urban II written in 1092 to the archbishop of Reims: "Solius etenim Apostolici est Episcopatus conjugere, conjunctos disjungere aut etiam novos constituere," a rule reiterated by Innocent III and recorded in the decretals (Corpus iuris canonici [Leipzig 1879–81; repr. Graz 1955] X 1.1.7).
Another measure taken by the pope was equally conducive to the strengthening and the extension of the centralizing power of Rome in disciplinary matters. By the institution and the establishment of legati a latere (legati missi, legati nati, legati nuntii ) in different areas of Christendom with the power to act in the name of the pope, the bishop of Rome intervened directly in the affairs of local Churches. Several of these legations, originally called vicariates apostolic, go as far back as the sixth century, and many were added in the following centuries. During the great crusade undertaken by the popes in the eleventh century for the reformation of the clergy and the faithful, these vicars were used to apply the program of reformation and further the interests of the Roman see.
Later Development. By the end of the twelfth century, the Latin Church already possessed an imposing and very comprehensive disciplinary system, built up gradually over the years since Constantine and his edict granting full liberty to Christianity. A vast arsenal of laws, enacted by local synods, by general and particular councils, and by the popes in their decretals constituted a huge collection of juridical rules adapted to the needs of a large society and provided the Western Church with a powerful and effective instrument of government. One thing remained to be done: Such a massive conglomeration of canonical rules, accumulated during centuries, needed unification, coordination, and systematization to clarify the existing law and to eliminate repetitions, contradictions, and useless or obsolete prescriptions. This was the work of Gregory IX (1227–41), who appointed St. Raymond Penafort to codify the ecclesiastical canons and prepare a new collection, the Decretals of gregory ix, which would be the only authentic collection in the Latin Church. Later the decretals became part of the corpus iuris cononici, a monumental digest of laws, containing the particular discipline of the Latin rite, under which Western Christendom was governed until 1918 and whose principles are embodied in the present Code of canon law.
Apart from its liturgy, which, even after the changes decreed by Vatican Council II, is quite different from that of the Eastern Churches, the Latin rite differs considerably from the others in its canonical discipline. The more striking and more commonly noted differentiations are the celibacy of the clergy, the use of unleavened bread at the Eucharist, and the distribution of Holy Communion under one species. But there are more fundamental and broader differences, which touch on practically all the aspects of ecclesiastical discipline and government. Many of the powers reserved to the bishop of Rome and exercised by him in the Latin Church are within the ordinary jurisdiction of the metropolitans or the patriarchs of the Eastern churches.
See Also: rome; papacy.
Bibliography: c. h. turner, Studies in Early Church History (Oxford 1912). p. batiffol, La Paix constantienne et le catholicisme (2d ed. Paris 1914); Le Siège apostolique (359–451) (Paris 1924). l. m. o. duchesne, Histoire ancienne de l'Église, 3 v. (Paris 1906–10); L'Église au VI e siècle (Paris 1925); Origines de culte chrétien (5th ed. Paris 1925). a. herman, "De conceptu ritus," Jurist 2 (1942) 333–345. a. petrani, De relatione iuridica inter diversos ritus in Ecclesia catholica (Turin 1930). h. dausend, Das interrituelle Recht im Codex iuris canonici (Görres-Gesellschaft, Veröffentlichungen der Sektion für Rechtsund Staatswissenschaft 79; Paderborn 1939). g. michiels, Normae generales juris canonici, 2 v. (2d ed. Paris-Tournai-Rome 1955); Principia generalia de personis in ecclesia (2d ed. Paris 1955). f. x. wernz and p. vidal, Ius canonicum, 7 v. in 8 (Rome 1933–1951).