Sect. III., pp.14-23.

[History of Glasgow, &c. Contents]

Of the Romish church

THE church of Rome introduced, by slow degrees, her innovations and corruptions into Scotland. A few of her superstitious customs were adopted in the eighth century. 

It has been said, that, before the eleventh century, we had no diocesian bishops; and that, although we had one bishop, viz. of St. Andrews, he was not properly diocesian; for he was designed Episcopus Scotiae, or Scotorum. In the same century, Romish monks and friars were brought in, as a militia, or an army, to support the Romish bishops, by rooting out the antient Keledees, and propagating the poison of popery. It was not before the twelfth century, and the reign of king David I. that the Popish clergy, and doctrines, obtained a firm establishment. 

The Romish clergy are divided into regular and secular; and these are again subdivided. 

I. The Regular Clergy. 

These were so called, because they were bound to live according to the rule of St. Augustine, or St. Bennet, or to some private statutes approved by the pope. The members of each fraternity lived, messed, and slept under one roof. There are several distinct societies of the regular clergy. 

1st, An Abbey. This is a society of monks, or friars, whereof the Abbot (in Heb. Ab or Abba, “Father,”) is the head or ruler. Some abbots were independent of the bishop, and freed from his jurisdiction: these were called Abbates exempti. Some were invested with episcopal powers, wore a mitre, were called “Sovereign mitred abbots,” and had a seat in parliament. The Abbates exempti might discipline and punish their monks; but abbots subject to the bishop, were obliged to submit them to his authority. 

Upon the dissolution of the religious houses, the King, in order to preserve the votes of abbots and priors in parliament, presented laymen to the benefices when vacant, who, by way of commendam, enjoyed the profits, and sat in parliament. But this usufructuary possession, as titulars, gave no right to the lands; and therefore they got them erected into temporary lordships. 

2d, Priories. At first, the prior was but the ruler of the abbey, under the abbot, who was primus in the monastery; and the prior was no dignitary: but afterward a mother-abbey, detaching a party of its monks, and obtaining a settlement for them in some other place, they became a separate convent. A prior was set over them; and their house was called cella grangia, or obedientia, denoting, that they depended on a superior monastery. This was called a conventual prior, and was a dignitary; but a prior in the abbey was only a claustral prior. In general, the priory lands were erected into a regality, of which the prior was lord. 

3d, Convents, of Monks, Friars, and Nuns. The monks and friars differed in this respect, that the former were seldom allowed to go out of their cloisters; but the friars, who were generally predicants, or mendicants, travelled about, and preached in the neighbourhood. Monks, at first, lived by their industry, and by private alms, and came to the parish church. But a recluse life was not so serviceable to the Romish church; and therefore friars were under little confinement. Every monk or friar used the tonsure, or shaved crown; an emblem, they said, of their hope of a crown of glory. They vowed chastity, poverty, and obedience, besides the rules of their respective orders. 

The Dominicans, called Black-friars, because they wore a black cross on a white gown, were instituted by Dominic, a Spaniard, who invented the inquisition, were approved by the pope, anno 1215, and brought into Scotland by bishop Malvoisin.1 These, with the Franciscan Grey-friars and Carmelite White-friars, were mendicants, allowed to preach abroad, and beg their subsistence. The Dominicans, notwithstanding their professed poverty, had fifteen rich convents in Scotland. 

The Franciscans, called Grey-friars, wore a grey gown and cowl, a rope about their middle, and went about with pokes to beg. St. Francis, an Italian, established them, anno 1206. 

The Grey-sisters, or nuns of Sienna in Italy, wore a grey gown, and a rotchet, followed St. Austin’s rule, and were never to go forth of their cloisters after they had made their vows. 

There were several convents of these three orders in Scotland, besides preceptories, ministries, and chaplainries. 

II. The Secular Clergy. 

These were the parish ministers, and lived in the world abroad, without being shut up in convents and cloisters, as the regulars were. The secular clergy consisted of the bishops and their inferiors. 

Colleges, or incorporated societies, having particular rules or canons for their government, were annexed sometimes to cathedrals, and sometimes to ordinary churches. In the former case, the bishop was the ruler. In the latter, they were called collegiate churches, and the head or ruler was called provost or dean. These colleges were instituted for performing divine service, and singing masses for the souls of their founders, or their friends. They consisted of canons, or prebendaries, who had their stalls for orderly singing the canonical hours, and were commonly erected out of parish churches, or out of the chaplainries belonging to churches. 

Canons, or chanons secular, so called, (to distinguish them from the regulars in convents,) were ministers, or parsons within the diocess, chosen by the bishop, to be members of his chapter or council, lived within the college, performed divine service in the cathedral, and sung in the choir, according to rules or canons made by the chapter. Prebendaries had each a prebendum, or portion of land, allotted to him for his service. Canons, and prebendaries, differed chiefly in this, that the canon had his canonica or portion, merely for his being received, although he did not serve in the church; but the prebendary had his prebendum, only when he served. 

Every canonry had a vicarage annexed to it, for the better subsistence of the canon, who had the great tithes of both parishes, and generally was the patron of the annexed vicarage. 

The dignified clergy were five in number, viz. 

The dean, who presided in the chapter, synods, &c. in the bishop’s absence. 

The archdeacon, who visited the diocess, examined candidates for orders, gave collation, &c. and was the bishop’s vicar. 

The chantor, who regulated the music, and, when present, presided in the choir. 

The chancellor, who was the judge of the bishop’s court, the secretary of the chapter, and the keeper of their seal. And 

The treasurer, who had the charge of the common revenues of the diocess. 

All these had rich livings, and deputies to officiate for them; and, with the addition of some canons, and prebendaries, chosen by the bishop, constituted the bishop’s privy council, or chapter capitolum, (the little head of the diocess,) the bishop being the head. They advised and assisted the bishop; signed with him all public acts and deeds: and, in a vacancy, elected for bishop, whom the king recommended by his conge d’elire

The inferior clergy were parsons, vicars, ministers of mensal churches, and of common churches, and chaplains

Parsons were those who had right to the tithes, and were the ministers and rectors of parishes. 

Vicars served the cure, vice, or in place of the rector. To augment the revenues of the bishop, the other dignified clergy, and the canons, parish churches were annexed to the churches in which these served, and they were the rectors or parsons of such annexed churches. – They had right to the tithes, and they sent vicars to serve the cure, to whom an allowance was made of a portion of the tithes, as a stipend. Hence they were called stipendiarii. At first, vicars were only employed during pleasure, and were called “simple vicars:” but the avarice of the parsons made the cure to be much neglected in this way; wherefore vicars were afterward settled for life, and called “perpetual vicars.” They generally had the small tithes allowed them. The parsons, who had vicarages depending upon them, claimed the patronage of them. Hence, after the reformation, the patron of the parsonage acted as patron of the vicarage. 

Mensal churches, were such as were de mensa episcopi, for furnishing the table of the bishop. He was parson, and titular, and employed a vicar, or stipendiary, to serve the cure. 

Common churches were so called, because the tithes of them were the common good, or for the public, and common exigencies of the diocess. 

Chaplains were those clergy who officiated in chapels. These chapels were of different kinds. In parishes of great extent, chapels of ease were erected, in distant corners, for conveniency, and the rector of the parish maintained a curate there, to read prayers, and sing mass. Some chapels were called Free Chapels, which were not dependent on any parish, but had proper endowments for their own ministers, whose charge was called a Chaplainary. 

Besides these, there were domestic chapels, or oratories built near the residence of great men, in which the domestic chaplain or priest officiated. And, almost in every parish, there were private chapels, built by individuals, that mass might be celebrated for the souls of themselves, or their friends. A small salary was mortified for that end, and usually granted to the priest of the parish. 

The office of saying mass in such chapels, was called chantery, or chanting masses. The salary for the priests officiating, or saying mass at an altar, was called altarage. The service performed for the dead, how soon they expired, was the obit, and the register of the dead was called obituary. In the first antiphone of the obit are the words dirge nos domine; and hence came the dirge. These, and the like, were shifts to increase the revenue of the clergy. 

The government of the diocess, both clergy and laity, was vested in the bishop, as the only prince or governor, in whom alone the power of jurisdiction was lodged. For his conveniency, he had officers, and courts ecclesiastic, civil, and criminal. These courts were five in number. 

The chapter was the principal. The legislative power was lodged in this court, or rather in the bishop, who, with advice of the chapter, made laws, canons, and regulations for the diocess; erected, annexed, or disjoined parishes; purchased, sold, or let in tack, church lands, and tithes, &c. 

Diocesian synods were called at the pleasure of the bishop, who, or the dean in his absence was president. Cases of discipline, and appeals from deanries were cognosced in these synodical meetings; and from them the Protestant church took the plan of provincial synods. 

The diocess was divided into deanries, which seem to have been, in some respects, what presbyteries are now, and to have been the model on which the presbyteries were formed. 

The consistorial court was held in the bishop’s name, by his official. It judged in all matters of tithes, marriages, divorces, widows, orphans, minors, testaments, mortifications, &c. This court granted dispensations, allowing marriages betwixt persons within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity; which, being purchased, brought an immense revenue to the bishop. The bishop also seized on the effects of those who died intestate, to the exclusion of the widow, children, relations, and even creditors; under pretence of applying them, for promoting the good of the soul of the deceased. The consistorial court is now succeeded by the commissariot court. 

The court of Regality likewise added to the bishop’s revenue. 

The chief revenues of the clergy were derived from the tithes, from the church lands mortified to them by the crown, and from private mortifications,2 and donations. Such were the power and riches of the clergy, that bishops, abbots, and priors, made fifty-three votes in parliament; and in all public impositions they paid one half of the taxation. 

The lands and revenues of the church have been gifted by the crown, since the reformation, to the nobility and gentry, and to the universities. 

1 William Malvoisin, bishop of Glasgow, anno 1200. In 1202, translated to St. Andrews, which see he appears to have filled until the year 1233. 

2 Legacies or bequests for pious purposes. 

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