Pragmatic Sanction

views updated Jun 11 2018


A fundamental law of the state regulating important affairs of Church or State, e.g., the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 that determined the successor to the throne after the death of Emperor Charles VI. In France the term was used to designate the regulations of the general councils that, after lengthy legal advice, were enforced by the king. Royal sanctions of this type occurred in 1407 and 1418, but more famous and consequential than these was the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438).

Antecedents of Bourges. After the suspension of eugene iv by the Council of basel (Jan. 24, 1438), France, like the empire, sought to remain neutral in its relations with both the pope and the council. At a meeting convened at Bourges (May 1, 1438) King Charles VIII took the opportunity to discuss with the French clergy their attitude toward the threatened schism. After regaining most of the royal domain, thanks to joan of arc, Charles was able to consult with representatives from nearly all parts of France. When agents from the pope and from Basel had vigorously presented their opposing points of view, the assembly decided that the king should strive to restore harmony by sending envoys to both parties, by requesting them to end the controversy, and by allowing the council's reform decrees to be tested by a commission in France. The 23 decrees of Basel were accepted with partial modifications, and the changes were to be approved by the Council of Basel. The decisions became immediately effective with the king's endorsement on July 7. Six days later the Pragmatic Sanction was registered by the parlement. The council, however, did not give its approval until Oct. 17, 1439.

Content. Among the approved decrees were Frequens and Sacrosancta, which legislated respectively regarding the regular convening of councils and the supremacy of a council over the pope. Other decrees regarding elections, the granting of benefices, papal jurisdiction, and annates sharply limited the rights of the pope. Still others affected the celebration of the liturgy and choir chant or were directed against current abuses in the Church, against concubinage and immorality, and also against excessive use of excommunication, interdict, and reservation. Nevertheless, the Pragmatic Sanction, with more concern than the council, wished to spare the person of Eugene IV and not deprive him of all his resources.

Conflict. The Pragmatic Sanction was a thorn in the side of the popes, not so much because it painfully restricted their income and limited their rights, but especially because, by its recognition of Basel's supremacy, it had furthered the demands and threats of conciliarism. Thus the papacy's struggle against this legislation was quite understandable. However, the concordat negotiations, begun in 1442, produced no results. Cardinal G. d' estouteville, as the legate of Nicholas II, demanded in vain that the Assembly of the Clergy of 1452 abolish its restrictions, offering a concordat instead.

Moreover, pragmatic decrees were often used by the king as a means of bargaining against concessions of the pope in French and Italian affairs, and in this period a spurious Pragmatic Sanction, signed supposedly by St. louis ix in 1269, made its appearance. In the hope of gaining papal support in the struggle over Naples, Louis XI, much to the chagrin of the clergy and the parlement, abolished the Pragmatic Sanction in 1461. Since he did not achieve the desired objective, however, in 1463 he again issued a long list of decrees "as a protection against Roman encroachments and for the reestablishment of ancient Gallican liberties." Both Julius II and Leo X condemned the Pragmatic Sanction as a work of the schism, but as late as 1510, an assembly of French bishops expressed the desire that it be observed. The bull of Leo X was read at the 11th session of the Fifth lateran council (1516). But the popes paid a heavy price for the replacement of the Pragmatic Sanction by the French concordat of 1516. The Pragmatic Sanction lived on in the form of gallicanism, since it was generally held by the French clergy that only those articles had been abolished that were explicitly corrected or retracted in the concordat. Thus, some articles survived until the French Revolution. However, the maxim that "the absolute and infinite authority of the pope has no place in France" became a fundamental principle of Gallicanism.

Bibliography: c. j. von hefele, Histoire des conciles d'après les documents originaux (Paris 190738) 7.2:105361. n. valois, Histoire de la Pragmatique Sanction de Bourges sous Charles VII (Paris 1906). v. martin, Les Origines du gallicanisme, 2 v. (Paris 1939) v. 2. l. buisson, Potestas und caritas: Die päpstliche Gewalt im Spätmittelalter (Cologne 1958). r. naz, Dictionnaire de droit canonique (Paris 193565) 7:108113. p. de vooght, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 8:680.

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Pragmatic Sanction

views updated Jun 27 2018

Pragmatic Sanction. An edict of 1713 attempting to ensure the undisputed and undivided succession of the Habsburg lands when Charles VI should die by setting aside the claims of his elder brother's daughters in favour of any daughters he should have. The cause of great diplomatic activity in the 1720s and 1730s, it did not suffice to prevent Maria Theresa being attacked in 1740 by Prussia, France, Spain, Saxony, and Bavaria. Britain came to her assistance and helped to place a pragmatic army in the field.

J. A. Cannon

Pragmatic Sanction

views updated May 29 2018

Pragmatic Sanction a document drafted in 1717 by the Emperor Charles VI providing for his daughter Maria Theresa to succeed to all his territories should he die without a son. It was accepted by Austria, Hungary, and the Austrian Netherlands in 1720–3, but opposition to it led to the War of the Austrian Succession on Charles's death in 1740.