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Synodal Examiners

Chosen in a diocesan synod to conduct competitive examinations or concursus

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Examiners, SYNODAL, so called because chosen in a diocesan synod. The Council of Trent prescribes at least six synodal examiners. The number twenty has been fixed upon by the Congregation of the Council as an ample sufficiency. The chief purpose of synodal examiners is to conduct competitive examinations or concursus, though they may be designated to hold other examinations. Suitable candidates for this office are proposed singly, not all together, each year in the diocesan synod, by the bishop or his vicar-general; they must be satisfactory to the synod and meet the approval of a majority of those present, the voting being secret or public as the bishop may determine. They should have the academic degree at least of licentiate in theology or canon law, but where clerics with such degrees are not available, others qualified, either of the diocesan or religious clergy, are eligible. Synodal examiners, once appointed, hold office till the ensuing synod, though several years have elapsed. Those chosen take an oath—in the synod, if present, otherwise privately in the presence of the bishop or vicar-general—to fulfill their duties conscientiously, without prejudice, favoritism, or other unworthy motive. Neglect on the part of only one to take this oath renders null and void the concursus in which he takes part. They are admonished, moreover, not to accept presents in the discharge of their office, failing in which they become guilty of simony and are punishable accordingly. Neither the diocesan synod nor the bishop personally may establish a salary, however insignificant, for the fulfilment of their office.

If, within a year after their appointment in synod, the number of examiners, through death, resignation, or other cause, fall below six, the bishop may, with the consent of the cathedral chapter, fill up the number; if the number six decrease after the expiration of a year, permission of the Sacred Congregation of the Council is also requisite. Examiners thus chosen out of synod are termed pro-synodal. There is no positive legislation regarding the removal from office of examiners, synodal or pro-synodal. In some countries, where ecclesiastical benefices do not exist, the regulations of the Council of Trent anent synodal examiners are not observed, kindred duties as far as necessary being performed by clerics who are styled “examiners of the clergy” or something similar. The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore prescribes for the United States that these examiners, at least six in number if possible, be selected in synod. It is only with permission of the Holy See and after consultation with the diocesan consultors that a bishop may choose them out of synod. In case of vacancy the bishop, with the advice of said consultors, may supply the deficiency. These examiners are required to take the oath as above and likewise to swear not to accept gifts on the occasion of examinations. Whether these examiners, thus appointed out of synod, hold office till death or only till the convening of the next synod is not determined. In many dioceses these same examiners conduct the examinations for the junior clergy, confessors, candidates for orders, and the like. (Cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XXIV, c. xviii, De ref.; also Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, nos. 24 sqq.)


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