(Church Courts; Ecclesiastical Courts). Since the RC Ch. claims the right of legislating for its subjects, it consistently claims also the judicial powers necessary to enforce its laws and to exact penalties from transgressors. These powers are exercised through spiritual courts. Recognition of the Christian Ch. by Constantine I led to the development of such courts and enabled them gradually to enlarge their jurisdiction. Eventually not only all matters with even a remote bearing on the ch. or religion were taken from the civil courts, but clerics of every degree were exempted from civil jurisdiction in the W Ch., and all cases to which a cleric was a party were tried in spiritual courts. Three courts of judgment are recognized: that of the bp. or his vicar-gen., that of the metropolitan (abp.), and that of the pope. Appeal may be made from lower to higher courts. But some cases are in the 1st instance reserved to the pope. Ecclesiastical courts have been limited in their powers, even in RC countries, and with their jurisdiction their importance has dwindled. See also Church and State; Clergy; Curia, 2 g.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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