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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
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Act by which unlawful possession of an ecclesiastical benefice is taken

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Errata* for Intrusion:

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.

Intrusion (Lat. intrudere , the act by which unlawful possession of an ecclesiastical benefice is taken. It implies, therefore, the ignoring of canonical institution, which is the reception of the benefice at the hands of him who has the right to bestow it by canon law. The necessity of proper canonical institution rests primarily on certain passages of the New Testament (John, x, 1; Hebr., v, 4), in which a legitimate mission from properly constituted authority in the Church is postulated. This is reaffirmed by the Council of Trent (Sess. XXIII, can. vii), and in the "Corpus Juris Canonici" it is decreed: "An ecclesiastical benefice may not be taken possession of without canonical institution" (cap. i, De reg. jur., in vi). Intrusion does not necessarily signify the employment of force in entering upon a benefice. To constitute him an intruder or usurper in the ecclesiastical sense, it is sufficient that the person has no true canonical title to the benefice when he takes possession. Historical examples of intrusion on a large scale are not wanting. To pass over the many violations of the Church's right during the investiture struggles of medieval times, we find wholesale intrusion practiced in France in the reigns of Louis XIV and Napoleon I, when ecclesiastics, nominated to episcopal sees but whose elections were never confirmed by the pope, ruled the dioceses into which they were thus intruded. Pius IX, in his Constitution "Romanus Pontifex", decreed excommunication and privation of dignities against members of a cathedral chapel who hand over the administration of a diocese to one who, although nominated, has not yet presented his letters of canonical institution. When laymen have the right of presentation to a benefice, the confirmation of ecclesiastical authority is necessary before actual possession can be obtained. The nominee who does not wait for this canonical induction is an intruder.

The definition is also extended to persons who, having been repelled even unjustly by their ecclesiastical superiors, seek the aid of the civil power to obtain possession under pretext of abuse. As an intruder has no true title to receive the revenues of the benefice which he un-canonically holds, he is bound in conscience to make restitution of what are ill-gotten gains to the lawful titular. Even if the latter die, it does not legalize the position of the intruder, for in that case the restitution must be made to the true titular's lawful successor in the benefice. To remove the irregularity incurred by intrusion, the papal power must be invoked, as the censure is reserved to the Holy See. A dispensation from such an irregularity is the more difficult to obtain in proportion to the falsity of the title invoked or the employment of violence in entering on the benefice. Canonists also extend the term intrusion to the keeping possession of a benefice by a hitherto lawful possessor, after it has been vacated by violation of certain decrees of the Church. Thus, titulars of one benefice who fraudulently present themselves for examination in a concursus to obtain a benefice for another by impersonating him, who obtain a benefice for others on the understanding that they are to be rewarded for it, or who seek a benefice with the intention of resigning it to another with a secret provision that they are to receive a pension from its revenues, lose the right to their own benefices, which thus canonically become vacant. By retaining possession of them in such cases, they become intruders.


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