THE relaxation of a law in a particular case. The necessity of dispensation arises from the fact that a law which is made for the general good may not be beneficial in this or that special case, and therefore may be rightly relaxed with respect to an individual, while it continues to bind the community. Dispensation must be carefully distinguished from the interpretation of a law, though the two are often confused with one another in common speech. Thus, a person so ill that he cannot fast without serious injury to his health needs no dispensation, because he is by the nature of the case exempt from the law. On the other hand, though he may be able to fast, his health, occupations, etc., may make it suitable that the law should be relaxed in his favor; for this purpose a dispensation is required, and he must apply to some one possessed of authority to grant it. Anyone may interpret the law who has sufficient knowledge and impartiality to do so, but jurisdiction is needed in order to dispense.

The general principle is that the lawgiver, from whom the law derives its force, has power to relax it. So again, a superior may relax the laws of his predecessors, because his power is equal to theirs, or of his inferiors, because his power is greater. But an inferior cannot dispense in the laws of his superiors unless by power delegated to him for that end.

God Himself cannot give a dispensation, in the strict sense of the word, from the natural law. "From the precepts of the decalogue," says St. Thomas, "no dispensation of whatsoever kind can be given," and to the objection that God who made the ten commandments can unmake them, he replies, "God would deny Himself if he did away with the order of his justice, since He is identical with his own justice, and therefore God cannot give a dispensation making it lawful for a man to neglect the due order to God, or exempting him from submission to the order of his justice, even in those things which concern the relations of men to each other." God, however, can change the circumstances in such a manner that the case no longer falls under the law. He could, for example, as supreme Lord and proprietor of all, make over the goods of the Egyptians to the Israelites, so that the latter could take them without committing robbery. He could, as the Lord of all that lives, deprive Isaac of life and make Abraham the executioner. Further, just as a man may remit a debt, so God may free a man from the obligation incurred to Him by oath or vow. Lastly, God can of course dispense from the positive law which he has imposed e. g. he could have dispensed a Jew from the law of circumcision, the Sabbath, etc. We may now pass on to consider the actual law of the Church on dispensations.

The Pope can dispense from obligations to God which a man has incurred of his own free will i. e. by oath or vow. This power belongs to him as the successor of St. Peter, to whom Christ gave the power of binding and loosing. He can also dispense in all matters of ecclesiastical law. Bishops, by their ordinary power, can dispense from the statutes of the diocesan synods, etc., and they can dispense individuals from the general laws of the Church, or from obligations under which they have placed themselves to God, in such cases as frequently occur _ e. g. in most vows, in fasts, abstinences, observances of feasts, etc. But by reason of privilege, lawful custom or necessity, the dispensing power of the bishop is often extended. Custom has also given parish priests power to dispense individuals from fasts, abstinences, abstinence from servile work on feasts, and the like. As a rule, a person who has received power to dispense from a superior by delegation cannot subdelegate.

A reason is always needed before a dispensation can be lawfully given. If a superior dispenses without cause in his own law or in that of an inferior, the dispensation, though unlawful, is valid. If, however, an inferior to whom dispensing power has been delegated uses it without reason, the dispensation is null and void. In all cases it is taken for granted that a dispensation is only given on the tacit condition that the statements of the person who petitions for it are true. Concealment or falsehood in an essential matter affecting the motive which induced the superior to dispense, renders the dispensation null.

A dispensation ceases if recalled; if it is renounced and the renunciation is accepted by the superior; also, in certain cases if the cause for which the dispensation was given no longer exists. What those cases are it is not so easy to determine. According to Suarez, a dispensation from one single obligation _ e. g. a vow _ continues even when the cause for which it was granted is there no longer, provided the dispensation has been accepted and used before the cause ceased. On the contrary, dispensations which virtually relax a series of obligations _ e. g. from fasting each day in Lent _ expire with the cause which induced the superior to grant them.


DIVORCE, in its widest sense, signifies a separation made between man and wife on sufficient grounds and by lawful authority. It may dissolve the marriage bond altogether, so that the man or woman is free to contract a fresh marriage (separatio quoad vinculum); or it may simply relieve one of the parties from the obligation of living with the other (separatio quoad torum et mensam).

No human power can dissolve the bond of marriage when ratified and consummated between baptized persons. But

(I) The marriage bond may be dissolved, even between baptized persons, by Papal authority, if the marriage has not been consummated. Such at least is the common doctrine of canonists and theologians; nor does Billuart, who holds the opposite opinion, deny that such divorces have been granted by Martin V., Paul I I I., Pius IV., and Gregory XIII.

(2) It may be dissolved in similar circumstances by the solemn religious profession of either party. This point was defined at Trent, sess. xxiv., can. 6; the principle had been already laid down by Innocent III., who professed to follow the example of his predecessors, and it is justified by the example of ancient saints, who left their brides before consummation of marriage to lead a life of perpetual continence. The engagement by which they bound themselves to continence may be considered equivalent to a solemn religious profession in later times.

(3) If two unbaptised persons have contracted marriage, this marriage, even if consummated, may be dissolved, supposing one of the parties embraces the Christian religion and the other refuses to live peaceably and without insult to the Christian religion in the married state.

This principle is laid down by Innocent III., and is founded on the "dispensation of the Apostle," as it is called, in I Cor. vii. 1215.

In all other cases the marriage bond is indissoluble, and, besides this, married persons are bound to live together, as man and wife. They may, however, separate by mutual consent; and, again, if one party exposes the other to grave danger of body or soul, or commit adultery, the innocent partner may obtain a judicial separation, or even refuse to cohabit without waiting for the sentence of the judge, provided always that the offense is clearly proved. If the innocent party has condoned the adultery, the right of separation on that ground is forfeited _ unless, of course, the offense is repeated. (From Billuart St. Liguori, Gury, De Matrimonio.")


THREE things, says Benedict XIV., are required to make a Doctor of the Church. First, he must have had learning so eminent that it fitted him to be a doctor not only in the Church but of the Church ("doctor ipsius ecclesiæ"), so that through him "the darkness of error was scattered, dark things were made clear, doubts resolved, the difficulties of, Scripture opened." Next, he must have shown heroic sanctity. Thirdly _ though, as we shall see presently, this last condition has not always been insisted on _ the title of "Doctor of the Church" must be conferred by a declaration of the Pope or of a General Council. Four Doctors of the Church are named in the canon law: viz. Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory. Besides these, other saints enjoy the title and cultus due to a Doctor of the Church without a formal declaration of Pope or Council. Under this class Benedict XIV. puts Chrysostom, Gregory Nazianzen, Anselm, Isidore, Peter Chrysologus. He adds that a part of the cultus usually assigned to doctors is given to St. Hilary, in whose office the gospel and prayer but not the antiphon, and to St. Athanasius and St. Basil, who have only the antiphon but not the gospel and prayer, proper to doctors.

Since the Reformation the title of Doctor of the Church has been conferred more freely. Pius V. added St. Thomas of Aquin to the list; Sixtus V., St. Buonaventura. During the eighteenth century the title was conferred on St. Anselm, St. Isidore, and St. Leo. Pius VIII. gave the title to St. Bernard: Pius IX. to St. Hilary, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. Francis of Sales. (Chiefly from Benedict XIV., "De Canoniz.," lib. iv. p. 2, cap. 11, 12.)


DOGMA, in its theological sense, is a truth contained in the Word of God, written or unwritten _ i. e. in Scripture or tradition _ and proposed by the Church for the belief of the faithful. Thus dogma is a revealed truth, since Scripture is inspired by the Holy Ghost, while tradition signifies the truths which the Apostles received from Christ and the Holy Spirit, and handed down to the Church.

The word itself has an interesting history. In classical writers it has three distinct senses connected with its derivation from dokein, "to seem." It means, accordingly, that which seems good to the individual _ i. e. an opinion; that which seems good to legitimate authority _ i. e. the resolution of a public assembly, or, in other words, a decree; lastly, it acquired a peculiar sense in the philosophic schools. The mere word. of some philosopher (e. g. of Pythagoras) was considered authoritative with his disciples; and so Cicero, in the Academic Questions, speaks of "decrees," or doctrines, "which the philosophers call dogmata, none of which can be surrendered without crime." In the LXX and New Testament, the word retains the second of the two of the senses given above. Thus, in Daniel ii. 13, iii. 10, in Luc. ii. I, xvii. 7, it is used of decrees proceeding from the State. In Ephes. ii. 15, Coloss. ii. 14, it signifies the Mosaic ordinances, and in. Acts xvi. 4 (dogmata ta kekrimena) the disciplinary decrees issued by the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem. Nowhere in the New Testament does it bear the sense in which theologians employ, it.

This sense sprang from the third of the classical meanings given above _ viz. that of a truth accepted on the authority of a philosopher. The Pythagoreans accepted tenets, which if true admitted of proof, on the authority of their master. Christians, better instructed, accepted truths beyond the reach of unaided reason which had been revealed by Christ to his Church. These truths they called dogmas. We find the earliest trace of this technical sense, still imperfectly developed, in St. Ignatius, "Magn.' 13 : _ "Use all zeal to be established in the doctrines (en tois dogmasin) of the Lord and the Apostles." In later Fathers the word occurs in its precise, theological meaning Thus, St., Basil mentions "the dogma of Christ's Divinity" (to tes theologias dogma); Chrysostom, "the dogmas (dogmata) of the Church;" Vincent of Lerins, "the ancient dogmas (dogmata) of heavenly philosophy." This last illustrates the origin of the theological term.

From the definition with which we began it follows that the Church has no power to make new dogmas. It is her office to contend for the faith once delivered, and to hand down the sacred deposit which she has received without adding to it or taking from it. At the same time, the Church may enunciate fully and impose dogmas or articles of faith contained in the Word of God, or at least deduced from principles so contained, but as yet not fully declared and imposed. Hence with regard to a new definition _ such, e. g. as that of Transubstantiation, Christians have a twofold duty. They are obliged to believe, first, that the doctrine so defined is true, and next that it is part of the Christian revelation received by the Apostles Again, no Christian is at liberty to refuse assent to any dogma which the Church proposes. To do so involves nothing less than shipwreck of the faith, and no Catholic can accept the Protestant distinction between "fundamental and nonfundamental articles of faith." It is a matter of fundamental importance to accept the whole of the Church's teaching. True, a Catholic is not bound to know all the definitions of the Church _ but if he knowingly and willfully contradicts or doubts the truth of any one among them, he ceases to be a Catholic.

This arbitrary distinction between essential and nonessential articles, has led by natural consequence to the opinion that dogmatic belief, as such, matters little, provided a man's life is virtuous and his feelings are devout. A religion of this kind is on the very face of it different from the religion of the Apostles and their successors. St. Paul anathematizes false teachers, and bids his disciples shun heretics; St. John denounces the denial of the Incarnation as a mark of Antichrist. It is not necessary to quote the utterances of the early Fathers on this matter, which has been already treated in the article on the Church, but we may refer the reader to the striking discussion of the subject in Cardinal Newman's book on "Development," ch. vii. sect. I, § 5. We will only remark in conclusion that it is unreasonable to make light of dogmatic truth, unless it can be shown that there is no such thing in existence. If God has made a revelation, then both duty and devotional feeling must depend on the dogmas of that revelation, and be regulated by them.

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