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Liber Septimus

Three canonical collections of quite different value from a legal standpoint are known by this title

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Liber Septimus. —Three canonical collections of quite different value from a legal standpoint are known by this title. (I) The “Constitutions Clementis V” or “Clementine”, not officially known as “Liber Septimus”, but so designated by historians and canonists of the Middle Ages, and even on one occasion by John XXII, in a letter to the Bishop of Strasburg, in 1321. This collection was not even considered a “Liber”. It was officially promulgated by Clement V in a consistory held at Monteaux near Carpentras (France) on March 21, 1314, and sent to the Universities of Orleans and Paris. The death of Clement V, occurring on April 20 following, gave rise to certain doubts as to the legal force of the compilation. Consequently, John XXII by his Bull, “Quoniam nulls”, of October 25, 1317, promulgated it again as obligatory, without making any changes in it. Johannes Andrea compiled its commentary, or glossa ordinaries. It was not an exclusive collection, and did not abrogate the previously existing laws not incorporated in it (see Corpus Juris Canonici; Papal Decretals). (2) A canonist of the sixteenth century, Pierre Mathieu (Petrus Matthaeus), published in 1690, under the title of “Septimus Liber Decretalium”, a collection of canons arranged according to the order of the Decretals of Gregory IX, containing some Decretals of preceding popes, especially of those who reigned from the time of Sixtus IV (1464-71) to that of Sixtus V, in 1590. It was an entirely private collection and devoid of scientific value. Some editions of the “Corpus Juris Canonici” (Frankfort, 1590; Lyons 1621 and 1671; Bohmer’s edition, Halle, 1747), contain the text of this “Liber septimus” as an appendix.

(3) The name has been given also to a canonical collection officially known as “Decretales Clementis Papte VIII”. It ‘owes the name of “Liber Septimus” to Cardinal Pinelli, prefect of the special congregation appointed by Sixtus V to draw up a new ecclesiastical code, who, in his manuscript notes, applied this title to it. Fagnanus and Benedict XIV imitated him in this, and it has retained the name. It was to supply the defect of an official codification of the canon law from the date of the publication of the “Clementine” (1317), that Gregory XIII, about the year 1580 appointed a body of cardinals to undertake the work. In 1587 Sixtus V established the congregation mentioned above. The printed work was submitted to Clement VIII, in 1598, for his approbation, which was refused. A new revision undertaken in 1607-08 had a similar fate, the reigning pope, Paul V, declining to approve the “Liber Septimus” as the obligatory legal code of the Church. It is divided into five books, subdivided into titles and chapters, and contains disciplinary and dogmatic canons of the Councils of Florence, Lateran, and Trent, and constitutions of twenty-eight popes from Gregory IX to Clement VIII. The refusals of approbation by Clement VIII and Paul V are to be attributed, not to the fear of seeing the canons of the Council of Trent glossed by canonists (which was forbidden by the Bull of Paul IV, “Benedictus Deus”, confirming the Council of Trent), but to the political situation of the day, several states having refused to admit some of the constitutions inserted in the new collection, and also to the fact that the Council of Trent had not yet been accepted by the French Government; it was therefore feared that the Governments would refuse to recognize the new code. It seems a mistake, too, to have included in the work decisions that were purely and exclusively dogmatic and as such entirely foreign to the domain of canon law. This collection, which appeared about the end of the sixteenth century, was edited by Francois Sentis (“Clementis Papae VIII Decretales”, Freiburg, 1870).


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