Operante divine dispositionis clementia

Papal Bull of His Holiness Pope Innocent III, December 17, 1198

(Granting Official Approbation of the Trinitarian Order)

1198 December 17, Rome/Lateran: Operante divine dispositionis clementia

Innocent, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to our beloved sons, John, minister, and the Brothers of the Holy Trinity, greetings and apostolic blessing.

   Positioned on the summit of the Apostolic See by the efficacious mercy of the divine order, we should lend our support to upright desires and put them into practice, when they stem from the root of charity, especially in the case where what is sought are the interests of Jesus Christ and the common good is preferred to private gain.

   When you beloved son in Christ, Brother John, minister, had formerly approached Our presence and had taken care to indicate humbly to Us your intention, which is believed to have come from divine inspiration, petitioning that your intention be confirmed by apostolic protection, We naturally – in order that We might better know that your desire is founded in Christ, without whom a stable foundation cannot be laid – sent you with Our letter to Our venerable brother [Eudes de Sully], bishop, and Our beloved son [Absolom], abbot of St-Victor, in Paris, referring you to them so that learning from them, inasmuch as they knew your desire better, We could give you Our assent more securely and more competently in the matter of your intention and the fruit of that intention and the foundation of your Order and the way of life that has been drawn up.

   Wherefore, as we have clearly learned from their letters, you seem to seek the advantage of Christ rather than your own, desiring that apostolic protection attend you.  We thus grant to you and to your successors by the authority of this document the Rule according to which you are to live –the tenor of which the aforementioned bishop and abbot have sent to Us along with their letters– with those points which We have order to be added from Our own judgment and from your petition, son and minister.  We order that this remain inviolate perpetually.  We have mandated that the text of the Rule be written down in this document, so that it may be more manifestly expressed.

In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity.

   The Brothers of the House of the Holy Trinity are to live in obedience to the prelate of their house – who shall be called Minister – in chastity and without personal possessions. All things, from whatever lawful source they may come, the brothers are to divide into three equal parts. Insofar as two parts will be sufficient, the works of mercy are to be performed from them, as well as providing for a moderate sustenance for themselves and their necessary household members. The third part is to be reserved for the ransom of captives who are incarcerated for the faith of Christ by pagans: with a reasonable price paid either for their ransom or for the ransom of pagan captives, so that afterwards by a reasonable exchange and in good faith a Christian may be ransomed for a pagan according to the merits and status of the persons. However, when money is donated or anything else, except land, meadows, vineyards, forests, buildings, livestock and things of this kind, though it be given specifically for some particular purpose, the third part is to be set aside, always with the consent of him who gave it; it is not to be received otherwise. Resulting profits with expenses deducted – that is, with one-half reserved for expenses – will be divided into three equal parts. Those profits, however, which entail little or no expense are all to be divided. When they have or are given cloth, shoes or small items of this nature, necessary for their use and which would not prove profitable to sell or to set aside, such things are not to be divided, unless it should seem expedient to the minister of the house and to the brothers. Concerning these matters there is to be a discussion every Sunday, if possible, in the chapter. Should the aforementioned items – such as cloth, land, livestock or small items – be sold, the resulting profit is to be divided into three parts as indicated above. All the churches of this Order are to be entitled with the name of the Holy Trinity. They are to be of simple construction.

   In each residence, there can be three cleric-brothers and three lay-brothers and, in addition, one brother who is to be procurator. This procurator is to be called minister, not procurator, as it is said: Brother N., Minister of the House of the Holy Trinity. The brothers are bound to promise and render him obedience. The minister is to administer faithfully to all his brothers as to himself. Their garments are to be woolen and white. They may each have one pelisse as well as breeches which they are not to take off while reposing. They are to repose in wool so that they have absolutely no featherbeds or mattresses in their houses, except for those suffering from illness. They are permitted, however, to have a pillow for the support of the head. The signs are to be placed on the capes of the brothers. They are not permitted to mount horses nor even possess them. They are only permitted to mount asses, given or lent to them or take from their own livestock. The wine to be drunk by the brothers is to be so tempered that it can be taken with sobriety. They are to fast from the 13th of September until Easter on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, unless a solemn feast intervenes. Moreover, from Advent until Christmas and from Quinquagesima Sunday until Easter, they are to fast on Lenten foods except on Sundays. They are likewise to keep the other fasts which the Church is accustomed to observe. Nevertheless, at times and with discretion, the minister can relax the fast on account of age, traveling or other sufficient reason, or even increase the fast, after considering whether or not is is opportune. They are permitted to eat meat given by outsiders or taken from their own livestock only on Sundays from Easter to Advent and from Christmas to Septuagesima Sunday, and on Christmas, Epiphany and the Ascension of the Lord, and on the Assumption and Purification of Blessed Mary, and on the feast of All Saints. They are to buy nothing for food except bread and potage ingredients – namely, beans and peas and vegetables of this kind – greens, oil, eggs, milk, cheese and fruit. Neither meat nor fish nor wine are they permitted to buy, except for the needs of the infirm or the weak or the poor or on great solemnities. Still, they are allowed to buy livestock and to raise it. However, when they are on a journey or traveling, they are permitted to buy, though sparingly, wine and fish during Lent, if necessary; if something is given to them, they should live on that and divide the remainder into three parts. Still, if they have set out on the way to ransom captives, whatever is given to them they must set aside totally for the ransom of captives, except expenses. In cities, villages or strongholds where they have their own houses, they are to eat or drink nothing outside those houses, even though they be invited by someone, except perhaps in a religious house or to take water in respectable houses. They are not to presume to pass the night outside such houses. They are never to dwell, eat or drink in taverns or in disrespectful places of that kind. Whoever presumes to do this is to undergo grave punishment according to the judgment of the minister.

   Such is to be the charity between cleric-brothers and lay-brothers that they shall eat the same food and use the same vesture, dormitory, refectory and the same table. The infirm are to eat and sleep apart. To their care one of the religious, either lay or cleric, is to be assigned; he is to inquire as to what may be necessary and then administer it as it should be administered. The infirm are to be advised not to ask for rich or very sumptuous foods, but to be content with suitable and healthful moderation. The care of guests and of the poor and of those who come and go is to be entrusted to one of the more discrete and kinder brothers. He is to hear them and, as it seems expedient, administer the comfort of charity; however, he is to ask of those whom he believes should be admitted, if they wish to be content with what is served to the brothers. In fact, it is not proper for anyone to be served rich and sumptuous foods. Whatever is to be offered should be presented in a cheerful manner. To no one is evil to be rendered for evil. If anyone, especially a religious, should come for hospitality, he is to be received kindly and he is to be ministered to charitably, according to the ability of the house. However, fodder or something in its place is not to be given to guests if they should be in a city, town or place where it can be found for sale, unless perhaps the guests be religious or such persons who have nothing at hand and cannot buy it. If the guests should not find it for sale and it is found in the house where they have been received, then it is to be furnished suitably to them. No brother, either lay or cleric, is to be without his own duty, if possible. Should anyone be able but unwilling to work, he is to be compelled to leave the place, for the Apostle says: he who does not work should not eat. They are to observe silence always in their church, always in the refectory, always in the dormitory. Still, they are permitted to speak about necessary matters in other places, at the proper time and in a subdued voice, humbly and respectfully. Outside the aforementioned places, their conversation is to be respectful and without scandal at all times. Likewise, their comportment, gestures, life and behavior and all else is to be found as respectful in them. In each house every Sunday, if possible, the minister is to hold a chapter with his brothers. The brothers are to render a faithful account to the minister and the minister to the brothers of the business of the house and of the things given to the house or to the brothers, so that the third part may be set aside for the ransom of captives. Every Sunday, if possible, an exhortation is to be given not only to the brothers, but also to the family of the house in like manner, according to their capacity; they are to be advised simply as regards what they must believe or do.

   In the chapter the brothers are to be judged with regard to all matters and complaints. None of the brothers is to accuse his brother in public, unless he is well able to prove the accusation. He who does this is to undergo the punishment which the accused might have undergone had he been found guilty, unless the minister should wish to dispense from this for some reason. If any should cause a scandal or something of this nature or, God forbid, if they should strike one another, they are to undergo a greater or lesser punishment according to the judgment of the minister. If anyone should sin regarding his brother, that is, against his brother, with only him who has suffered the injury knowing of it, he is to bear it patiently, even though he be innocent. When the emotional upset has calmed, the one offended is to advise and correct the offender kindly and fraternally between themselves as many as three times both to do penance for the offense and to refrain from such in the future. If the offender does not listen, the one offended is to tell the minister, who is to correct the offender privately in a manner that seems expedient for his own good. However, if he who caused the scandal should of himself wish to make amends, he is to prostrate himself fully at the feet of the one scandalized, begging forgiveness; if once does not suffice, he is to repeat it as many as three times. If the scandal should become public, whatever may follow, this penance is to be first, namely the full-length prostration at the feet of the minister by the one begging forgiveness; according to the minister’s judgment, the offender is afterwards to be corrected. The General Chapter is to be held once a year, which should be during the Pentecost octave. If a debt must be contracted for some necessity of the house, it is first to be proposed to the brothers in chapter and done with their advice and consent, so that both suspicions and murmurs may be avoided in this way. If someone does damage to the goods of the house and it is necessary that the matter be taken to court, this is not to be done before he is warned charitably first by the brothers and afterwards, in like manner, by other neighbors.

   The election of the minister is to be done by the common deliberation of the brothers. He is not to be elected according to dignity of birth, but according to the merit of his life and the wisdom of his learning. He who is elected is to be a priest or a cleric suitable for orders. The minister, in fact, whether major or minor, must be a priest. The Major Minister can hear the confessions of the brothers of all the congregations of the entire Order. The Minor Minister may hear the confessions of all the brothers of his house, provided that the shame of repeated excesses should not offer the least occasion of confessing to their prelates more tardily and less completely than is proper. The minister is solicitously to take care that he adheres to the precepts of the Rule in all matters, just as the other brothers must do. After he has been elected, if for some crime he should deserve to be deposed, he is to be deposed by the Major Minister, with three or four Minor Ministers having been assembled for the case; another who is worthy is to be substituted in his place. However, if the Major Minister is not able to do this because of the remoteness of the place or some other sufficient reason, he is to entrust this task to the more religious Minor Ministers; what they do shall have the ratification of the Major Minister’s authority. But if the Major Minister should have to be corrected or deposed for misconduct, this is to be done by four or five of the more religious ministers of the same Order who, moreover, must be chosen for this task by the General Chapter.

   If anyone wishes to be a brother of this Order, he is first to serve for God’s sake in the Order for a year at his own expense, except for food, retaining his clothing and all his belongings. After the year, if it seems good and fitting to the minister of the house and to the brothers and to himself, and if a place is open for him, he is to be received. Nothing, however, is to be demanded for his reception. If he gives anything freely, it is to be received provided that it is such that a litigation does not appear to threaten the Church. If there should be some doubt about his conduct, an extension of his probation is to be made. If anyone before reception should be unruly and impatient of the discipline and he will not correct his way of life according to the judgment of the minister, permission is discreetly to be given him to leave with all the things which he brought. No one is to be received into the Order until he has completed his 20th year. Profession, moreover, is to be left to the judgment of the minister.

   They are not to accept sureties from the hands of the laity, unless as tithes with the permission of their bishop. They are not to take oaths, except in great necessity with the permission of their minister or when ordered to do so by their bishop or by someone representing the Apostolic See, and this for a sufficient and respectable reason. If there is any known defect in something to be sold, it is to be indicated to the buyer. They are not permitted to accept a deposit of gold or silver or money. On the same day on which one becomes infirm or has been admitted, he is to confess his sins and to receive Communion. Every Monday, except during the octaves of Easter, Pentecost, the Nativity of the Lord, the Circumcision and the Epiphany and, moreover, on the feasts which have been announced as designated for worship, the absolution of the faithful departed is to be done in the cemetery after the Mass of the faithful. Every night also, at least in the hospital in the presence of the poor, common prayer is to be held for the state and the peace of the holy Roman Church and the entire Christendom and for benefactors and for those for whom the Universal Church is accustomed to pray. In the Regular Hours, they are to observe the usage of Blessed Victor, unless perhaps pauses or other prolixities and vigils ought to be omitted, on the advice of pious and religious men, because of their work or the small number of those who can participate. Because of their small number, they will not be obliged to make such pauses during the psalms or to rise so early. As regards shaving, the cleric-brothers are likewise to follow the usage of Saint Victor. The lay-brothers are not to shave their beards, but are to permit them to grow moderately.

   In conclusion, no one at all is allowed to violate this document of our concession and disposition or rashly dare to oppose it. Should anyone dare to attempt this, let him realize that he will incur the wrath of God Omnipotent and of his blessed apostles Peter and Paul.

Given at the Lateran, on the *sixteenth day before the Kalends of January, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 1198, in the first year of our pontificate.

Note from Webmaster: *(= 17 December)

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