Commandments of the Church

PARENTS, and other persons invested with lawful authority, have power to make rules for those placed under them, so that things lawful in themselves become unlawful by their prohibition. The Scripture teaches plainly that the Church has this power. We are to hear the Church (Matt. xviii. 17). The Holy Ghost has placed bishops to "rule the Church" (Acts XX. 28). St. Paul commanded Christians to keep the "precepts of the Apostles and the ancients" (xv. 41).

The Roman Catechism makes no special enumeration of the commandments of the Church; but such an enumeration is generally found in popular Catechisms, which have followed in this respect the example set by the Catechism of Canisius. The English Catechism, like the French ones of Fleury, etc., counts six commandments of the Church. Many other Catechisms reduce them to five. In our English Catechism they are given as follows: 1, to keep certain days holy with the obligation of resting from servile work; 2, to hear Mass on Sundays and holidays of obligation; 3, to keep the days of fasting and abstinence; 4, to confess once a year; 5, to communicate at Easter or thereabouts; 6, not to marry within forbidden degrees, or at forbidden times. The sixth commandment is omitted in many Catechisms; that of Bellarmine adds another viz. to pay tithes.


A HEADDRESS worn by bishops, abbots, and in certain cases by other distinguished ecclesiastics. Mitra (mitra) is used in Greek and Latin for the turban which was worn by women, and among the Asiatics, especially Phrygians, by men. It had no connection with religious rites.

On the other hand, a band (infula) was worn by heathen priests and by the sacrificial victims. The Jewish priests wore a cap of uncertain form, though the root points to a round shape, and the high priest a turban, from a root meaning "to wind," with a plate of gold on the front, inscribed with the words, "Holiness to the Lord." The Vulgate uses "mitra" for the high priest's headdress (Ecclus. xlv. 14), for the priest's (Exod. xxix. 9 ; Lev. viii. 13). It is certain, however, that the early church did not adopt the headdress of the Jewish priesthood and transfer it to her own priests or chief priests. Polycrates of Ephesus, indeed, writing about 190 (apud Euseb. "H. E." v. 24) says of St. John the Evangelist that he "became a priest, having worn the plate (petalon)," and Epiphanius (Haer.) about 380, makes a similar statement about St. James, except that he makes it in St. James's case a mark of his Jewish, not his Christian priesthood, for he says he was allowed both to wear the petalon and enter the Holy of Holies. This account of Epiphanius is evidently legendary, for on what possible ground could the authorities of the Temple treat James as high priest? Bishop Lightfoot (see also Routh, "Rell. Sacr." ii. P. 28) is probably justified in regarding the language of Polycrates on St. John's "plate" as metaphorical. But, in any case, such a "plate" answers to no vestment now in use; and even if we could translate it "mitre" (as we cannot), this use by St. John stands quite by itself. It would have been his custom, not that of the Church.

Hefele, who treats the above notices of St. John and St. James as mere legends, contends, nevertheless, that there are clear traces of mitres used as part of the official ecclesiastical costume from the fourth century. After carefully considering the proofs which he alleges, we can see no reason for abandoning the judgment of Menard, the learned Benedictine editor of St. Gregory's Sacramentary - viz. that for the first thousand years of her history there was no general use of mitres in the Church. All Hefele's references can, we think, be explained as poetical or metaphorical. And, on the other hand, Hefele himself allows that no Sacramentary or Ritualbook before 1000 AD mentions the mitre, much less the bishop's investment with it at consecration, though, e.g. in a Mass for Easter Sunday, written before 986, the ornaments of a bishop are enumerated. Again, liturgical writers, such as Amalarius and Walafrid Strabo, are silent on the subject. "It is not," we again quote from Hefele, "it is not till the eleventh century that representations of popes, bishops, and abbots with the mitre occur; though from that time onwards they are very numerous."

The use of the mitre seems to have begun at Rome, and then to have spread to other churches. Leo IX., in 1049, gave the "Roman mitre" to the Archbishop of Treves, and this is the earliest instance known of such a concession. Canons also, e.g. at Bamberg, got leave from Rome to wear the mitre on certain feasts, and it was used by all cardinals till, in 1245, the first Council of Lyons sanctioned the cardinal's hat. According to Gavantus (tom. i. 149), the first concession of a mitre to an abbot was Made by Urban II. in 1091. The straight lines and sharp point familiar to us in the Gothic mitres first appear in works of art in the thirteenth century. The Italian mitre with its greater height and curved lines came into use in the fourteenth.

Bishops and abbots (if mitred) receive the mitre from the consecrating bishop, a ceremony, as Catalani shows, of late introduction. The "Caerimoniale Episcoporum" distinguishes the "precious mitre" adorned with jewels and made of gold or silver plate; the "mitra auriphrygiata," without precious stones (it may, however, be ornamented with pearls) and of gold cloth (ex tela aurea); the "plain mitre" (mitra simplex) of silk or linen and of white color. The bishop always uses the mitre if he carries the pastoral staff. Inferior prelates who are allowed a mitre must confine themselves to the simple mitre, unless in case of an express concession by the Pope ("Manuale Decret." 870). The Greeks have no mitre. The Armenians have adopted a kind of mitre for bishops and a bonnet for priests since the eleventh century. (Hefele, "Beiträge," vol. ii. Gavantus, Bona, "Rerum Lit." lib. i.; Catalani on the "Pontifical"; Menard on St. Gregory's Sacramentary. Innocent III. gives mystical meanings to the mitre and its parts - e.g. the two horns are the two testaments - the strings, the spirit and the letter, etc.)


MIXED MARRIAGES are marriages between persons of different religions. A marriage between a baptized and unbaptized person is invalid; one between a Catholic and a person of another communion e.g. a Protestant is valid, but, unless a dispensation has been obtained from the Pope or his delegate, unlawful. This explanation has been already given in the article on the IMPEDIMENTS OF MARRIAGE. But it will be useful to say something here on the legislation of the Church on marriages between Catholics and other Christians not Catholics.

(I) Benedict XIV. (Instruction on Marriages in Holland, 1741. Encyclical, "Magnae nobis") has declared the Church's vehement repugnance to such unions, on the ground that they are not likely to be harmonious, that they expose the Catholic party and the children to danger of perversion, that they are apt to produce indifference, etc., etc.

(2) He says the Church has permitted them for very grave reasons, and generally in the case of royal personages; but even then on condition that the Catholic party be free to practice his or her religion, and that a promise be given that the children of either sex be brought up Catholics.

(3) Increasing intercourse between Catholics and Protestants made such marriages far more frequent, and the conditions insisted on by Benedict XIV. were neglected. In Silesia a law of the State in 1803 required the children of mixed marriages to be brought up in the religion of the father. In England, till very recent times, there was a common arrangement by which the boys were brought up in the father's, the girls in the mother's, religion; and neither in Silesia (see Hergenröther, "Kirchengeschichte," vol. ii. p. 856 seq.) nor in England did the Catholic clergy, as a rule, oppose this state of things. An attempt was made by the Prussian Government in 1825 to introduce the law which prevailed in Silesia and the other Eastern provinces to the Rhineland and Westphalia; and this order of the Cabinet was accepted by Von Spiegel, Archbishop of Cologne, and also, though with some scruple, by the Bishops of Paderborn, Münster, and Treves. This led Pius VIII. and Gregory XVI. to declare a mixed marriage, when it was not understood that the children of either sex should be brought up Catholics, contrary to the "natural and divine law." Otherwise, the priest could take no part in the celebration. In extreme cases and to avoid greater evils, he might passively assist at the contract; but more the Pope himself could not permit. Obedience to these Papal briefs led to the imprisonment of Droste von Vischering, the new Archbishop of Cologne in 1837, and to that of the Archbishop of Posen in 1839. The bishops, even those who had once been of a different mind, steadfastly adhered to the Papal regulations. One exception, however, must be mentioned. The PrinceBishop of Breslau resigned his see in 1840 rather than submit, and became a Protestant. He died in 1871. Under the good king, William IV., peace was gradually restored between Church and State.

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