Precedence (Lat. praecedere, to go before another) signifies the right to enjoy a prerogative of honor before other persons; e.g. to have the most distinguished place in a procession, a ceremony, or an assembly, to have the right to express an opinion, cast a vote, or append a signature before others, to perform the most honorable offices. Questions of precedence sometimes give rise to controversies. In both civil and ecclesiastical legislation they are regulated by laws and rules. In canon law the general rule is that precedence is determined by rank in the hierarchy both of jurisdiction and of order. Where rank is equal it is determined by priority of foundation: Qui prior est tempore, potior est jure (Regula juris 54, in VP). With regard to colleges (collegia), precedence is determined by the quality of the person to whom the college is attached. The order of precedence is regulated as follows: the pope always takes first rank, after him come cardinals, patriarchs, archbishops, exempt bishops, suffragan bishops, titular bishops, and prelates nullius. In these categories priority of ordination and promotion determines precedence, among bishops or archbishops the date of their first promotion to the episcopal or archiepiscopal dignity. Custom or privilege may derogate from this rule. A Decree of Propaganda (August 15, 1858) grants to the Archbishop of Baltimore the right of precedence in the United States (Collectio Lacensis, III, 572). In their own diocese bishops have precedence before strange bishops and archbishops, but not before their own metropolitan. Metropolitan chapters have precedence before cathedral chapters, and the latter before collegiate chapters. The secular clergy according to the importance of their office or the date of their ordination precede the regular clergy. Canons regular take the first place among the regular clergy, then come clerics regular, the monastic orders, and the mendicant orders. Among the mendicants the Dominicans take first place outside of processions; in processions, the acquired right of precedence or that appertaining to priority of establishment in a town must be respected. This last rule applies also to confraternities, but in processions of the Blessed Sacrament the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament has precedence. The Third Orders have precedence of confraternities. Questions of precedence at funerals have given rise to numerous decisions of the Congregation of Rites (see “Decreta S. S. Rituum Congregationis”, Rome, 1901, V, Index generalis, V° Praecedentia). The provisory solution of questions of precedence in processions arising between regulars belongs to the diocesan bishop. The Congregation of Rites decides concerning those with regard to liturgical ceremonies; the Congregatio Caeremonialis regulates the precedence of the papal court.
A. VAN HOVE