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Precept

PRECEPT

An order, writ, warrant, or process. An order or direction, emanating from authority, to an officer or body of officers, commanding that officer or those officers to do some act within the scope of their powers. Rule imposing a standard of conduct or action.

Inenglish law, the direction issued by a sheriff to the proper returning officers of cities and boroughs within his jurisdiction for the election of members to serve in parliament.

In old French law, a kind of letters issued by the king in subversion of the laws, being orders to the judges to do or tolerate things contrary to law.

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precept

pre·cept / ˈprēˌsept/ • n. 1. a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought: moral precepts the legal precept of being innocent until proven guilty | children learn far more by example than by precept. 2. a writ or warrant: the Commissioner issued precepts requiring the companies to provide information. DERIVATIVES: pre·cep·tive / priˈseptiv/ adj.

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precept

precept general command, esp. of divine origin XIV; writ, warrant XV. — L. præceptum maxim, order, sb. use of n. pp. of præcipere take beforehand, warn, instruct, enjoin, f. præ PRE- + capere take.
So preceptor (-OR1) XV.

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precept

preceptadapt, apt, enrapt, rapt, unmapped, untapped •periapt • snow-capped •accept, crept, except, incept, inept, intercept, kept, leapt, overleaped, sept, slept, swept, upswept, wept, yclept •adept • housekept • transept •precept • concept • percept •rainswept • windswept • undraped •pearshaped •conscript, crypt, encrypt, harelipped, hipped, script, unequipped, unwhipped •Egypt • eucalypt • transcript •nondescript • typescript • manuscript •subscript •adopt, co-opt, Copt, opt •unhoped •abrupt, corrupt, disrupt, erupt, interrupt, irrupt •bankrupt •underdeveloped, undeveloped •excerpt • sculpt

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Precept

PRECEPT

A precept is a command by a legitimate authority that binds in conscience. Since this is also true of law, canonical usage has restricted the scope and meaning of the word precept. All laws are precepts but, conversely, not all precepts are laws. A further precision, then, is necessary. A precept is commonly understood as a command, by a qualified superior, given to an individual person, either temporarily or permanently, or to a community temporarily. The source of the authority imposing the precept may be either jurisdictional or nonjurisdictional power. The former is public power to govern a perfect society; the latter is either domestic power, by which qualified heads of private societies (e.g., conjugal or parental) exercise their respective authority over certain persons, or dominative power, by which properly constituted superiors of imperfect societies govern their subjects, e.g., parishes, some religious institutes.

With regard to the scope of the precept itself, to create a true obligation in those on whom it is imposed, it must be objectively just, possible, and morally good and useful; and finally, it must be made known to those whom it proposes to bind. On the part of the superior, it requires the requisite juridical relationship, by way of either jurisdiction, domestic power, or dominative power, by which the superior may impose the precept; and this relationship must be actual in order for the precept to be obligating, at least at the time of the issuance of the precept. A distinctive characteristic of precepts given to individual persons in virtue of nonjurisdictional power is that its prescriptions are personal and binding everywhere, and not only in a specific locality (unless this had been otherwise indicated by the superior or by the nature of the precept itself).

Precepts are usually temporary expedients and normally cease with the cessation of authority of the individual imposing the precept, through either death, resignation, transfer, or loss of official status. The precept is imposed by the superior and not by the law itself, and means of enforcement are limited to disciplinary measures such as paternal exhortation and the extrajudicial imposition of penances. A precept given to a community likewise is obligatory for the members of the group as individuals, in accordance with the above. On the other hand, precepts imposed on individuals in virtue of jurisdictional power are both personal and temporary, but lose their binding force with the cessation of the preceptor's juridical power, unless the precept had been imposed with the formality of a legal document or before two qualified witnesses. If this latter measure was taken, the precept could be enforced judicially, i.e., by an ecclesiastical trial. If the precept is given to a community, it seems that the common good requires its duration, even after the cessation of the official authority of its author. However, when for any reason the precept ceases to bind because of the superior's loss of office, the effects of it that have already been executed retain their force and remain unchanged, although the precept itself and its future effects lose their capacity to bind. Thus, a religious transferred to another in virtue of a precept must remain there although his superior who issued the precept has since lost his office.

The precept is akin to law in many ways: its imposition gives rise to moral obligation as is the case with law; its object must be morally good, possible, and reasonable; the excusing causes that obtain with regard to law, i.e., impotence, ignorance, revocation, etc., are the same. There are, however, some notable qualifications that distinguish precept from law: the law has as its object the common good, while the precept may be issued for the good of the individual himself or any other person, including the superior. Law requires legislative power, while dominative or domestic power (e.g., paternal or domestic) suffices for a precept. A precept can be imposed on a community that would not be capable of receiving a law. A law by its nature implies a relative stability and perpetuity, whereas a precept is usually ineffective after the authority of the superior ceases. Generally, laws are territorial, while the precept, unless otherwise stipulated, is personal.

Bibliography: j. abbo and j. hannan, The Sacred Canons, 2 v. (St. Louis 1960) v. 1. m. conte a coronata, Institutiones iuris canonici: De sacramentis, 3 v. (Turin-Rome 194957) v.1. u. beste, Introductio in codicem (Naples 1961). e. f. regatillo, Institutiones iuris canonici, 2 v. (Santander 1961) v. 1. f. x. wernz and p.vidal, Ius canonicum, 7 v. in 8 (Rome) v. 1 (1952). m. zalba, Theologiae moralis summa, 3 v. [Bibloioteca de autores cristianos (Madrid 1945) 93, 106, 117; 2d ed. 1957] v. 1.

[p. balkan]

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