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Privilege of Competency

Of a cleric or ecclesiastical dignitary

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Competency, PRIVILEGE OF (Lat. Privilegium Competentioe).—(1). The competency of a cleric means his right to proper sustenance. When a parochial church has been incorporated with a collegiate institution or monastery and a vicar has been appointed to the cure of souls in the parish, the possessors of the benefice are obliged to give him the needful salary. Nor can the right to this competency be done away with by agreement. If a private contract be made by which a less sum is to be accepted, it will not bind the successor of the contracting vicar. Even if the contract be approved by public authority, it is not binding unless an amount sufficient for the proper support of the pastor be stipulated. The right to competency also has place when several simple benefices are united with a parish church. If the endowment is not sufficient for the necessary number of pastors, then recourse is to be had to first fruits, tithes, and collections among the parishioners (Council of Trent, Sess. XXIV, c. xiii, de Ref.). It is the duty of the bishop to see that those who have the care of souls be provided with proper support. By the privilege of competency, the goods of a cleric, burdened with debt, cannot be attached or sold without leaving him sufficient means of support (Cap. 3, x., III, 23). A cleric loses this privilege, however, if he fraudulently contracts unnecessary debts, in abuse of the privilege. The civil law in some countries recognizes this right of competency. In Austria, while the property of a benefice cannot be attached, the revenues can, but only to such an extent that at least 300 or 210 florins, according to the rank of the benefice, must remain intact. In Germany, whatever is necessary for exercising the ministry is free from attachment. The civil laws of the United States and Great Britain make no exception for clerics.

(2) The term competency is also used for the sum total of the rights belonging to any ecclesiastical dignitary, as of the pope, bishops, etc. Objectively, such competency is determined by the various functions to which it extends, such as ordination, matrimony, and so forth.


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