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Fiscal Procurator

The duties of the fiscal procurator consist in preventing crime and safeguarding ecclesiastical law

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Fiscal Procurator (Lat. PROCURATOR FISCALIS).—The duties of the fiscal procurator consist in preventing crime and safeguarding ecclesiastical law. In case of notification or denunciation it is his duty to institute proceedings and to represent the law. His office is comparable to that of the state attorney in criminal cases. The institution of the procuratores regii or procureurs du roi (king's procurators) was established in France during the thirteenth century, and has developed from that time onward; though canon law, previous to that time, had imposed on the bishops. the duty of investigating the commission of crimes and instituting the proper judicial proceedings. It is to be noted that formerly canon law admitted the validity of private as well as of public accusation or denunciation. At present custom has brought it about that all criminal proceedings in ecclesiastical courts are initiated exclusively by the fiscal procurator.

The Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, June 11, 1880, called attention to the absolute necessity of the fiscal procurator in every episcopal curia, as a safe-guard for law and justice. The fiscal procurator may be named by the bishop, either permanently, or his term of office may be limited to individual cases (see Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, 1884, no. 299; App., p. 289). This official appears not only in criminal proceedings but also in other ecclesiastical matters. In matrimonial cases, canon law provides for a defender of the matrimonial tie whose duty it is to uphold the validity of the marriage, as long as its invalidity has not been proven in two lower ecclesiastical courts. This defender of the matrimonial tie represents both ecclesiastical law and public morality, whose ultimate objects would not be attained if the validity or invalidity of a marriage were decided in a too easy or informal way. A similar office is that of the defender of the validity of sacred orders and solemn vows. When the validity of either of these acts, and their pertinent obligations, is attacked, it becomes the duty of this official to bring forward whatever arguments may go to establish their binding force. In all these cases the defensor, like the fiscal procurator in criminal processes, represents the public interests; the institution of this office was all the more necessary, as it takes cognizance of causes in which both parties frequently display a desire to have the contract nullified. In the processes of beatification and canonization it devolves on the promotor fidei to investigate strictly the reasons urged in favor of canonization, and to find out and emphasize all objections which can possibly be urged against it. He is therefore popularly known as the advocatus diaboli, i.e. "devil's lawyer". It is the duty of the promotor fidei, therefore, to take up the negative side in the discussion which has a place amongst the preliminaries to beatification and canonization, and to endeavor, by every legitimate means, to prevent the completion of the process.

FISCAL OF THE HOLY OFFICE.—The Holy Office, i.e. the supreme court in the Catholic Church for all matters that affect its faith or are closely connected with its teaching, has an officialis fiscalis, whose duties are similar to those of the fiscal procurator in episcopal courts. The officialis fiscalis is present at all sessions of the Holy Office, when criminal cases are sub judice, and as adviser to the ordinary when the process is referred to the episcopal court. By the reorganization of the Roman Curia, June 29, 1908, the Holy Office continues to retain its exclusive competency in all cases of heresy and kindred crimes. The office of fiscalis to this Congregation therefore remains unchanged.


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