The Doctor and Student (1518)

Christopher St. Germain

Whether the parliament may prohibit, that no ordinary shall admit none to the order of priesthood, except they be sufficiently learned

Doct. Whether may the parliament prohibit, that no ordinary upon a certain pain shall admit none to the order of priesthood, except he be sufficiently learned?

Stud. I am in doubt in this question, and the thing that causeth me to doubt therein is this, if it were enacted, as thou sayest, and after an action were brought upon the penalty, and the ordinary would plead, that he that was made priest was sufficiently learned; and thereupon an issue were joined, that issue should be tried by twelve men., and as it seemeth, it were not reasonable, that twelve men, which commonly be unlearned, should try whether a man were sufficiently learned to be a priest, for they have no knowledge therein. And therefore if, any such penalty should be set by parliament, it seemeth that it must be farther enacted, that if the issue were joined (as is said before) that then it should be tried by spiritual men, or temporal men that be sufficiently learned thereto, or by both.

Doct. But thinkest thou then, that the parliament may ordain, that spiritual men shall be compelled to pass upon inquests? It seemeth, that were against the law. of God, and against the perfection of their order, and to break them frond the devotion of contemplation, that is requisite to them. For Saint Paul saith in his second espistle to Timothy, the second chapter: ‘”Nemo militans Deo, implicat se negotiis secularibus; that is to say, “Let no man that hast set himself to serve God, intryke himself in secular business.” Which words be specially spoken of priests. And therefore it seemeth, he should do, against the saying of Saint Paul, that would compel priests to go upon inquests.

Stud. Verily there is. a writ in the Register (which is a book of the law of England) that no sheriff shall impanel any priests upon any inquest, and that writ may every priest have, that will sue for it. And I think right well, that that writ is grounded upon the law of the realm: taking in that point his effect upon the law of God. And therefore I think, that the parliament may not enact, that priests should go universally upon inquests; but to enact, that in this special case, which is not mere temporal, but to enquire of the sufficiency of learning, and that to a good and necessary purpose, I suppose the parliament may assign them to it without breaking the liberty of the church. And so they be many times upon a writ to enquire de jure, patronatus, where priests and laymen shall be joined together to enquire of the right of the patronage. And methinketh, they might do in like case here, either by themself, or to, be joined with laymen.

Doct. There they be called by the authority of the ordinary, and here they should be called by the temporal authority.

Stud. Whether they be called by spiritual authority, or by temporal authority, their business is all one. For as great let is it to devotion and contemplation, when they be called thereto by the bishop, as when they be called thereto by the king. And though, as thou sayest, the bishops shall command to appear in that case, yet it is by the king’s law, that he shall do so: which law the convocation may not alter nor change, but the parliament might change it with a cause: for it pertaineth to the ordering of temporal inheritance, that is to say, to the ordering the patronage, and of presentments of advowsons, which be temporal.

Doct. I can in no wise see how it may stand with the law of God, that the parliament should compel spiritual men to go upon inquest. And therefore if such a statute should be made, the inquest must be taken all of temporal men, that have sufficient learning thereto: and yet I regard not this point so much in this question, as I do that the matter of itself is so mere spiritual, that the parliament hath no power to set any pain upon it. For as it seemeth, if it might do that, it might as well set a pain upon the tonsures of clerks, or upon the order of the service, or what use they should keep, and that I suppose thou thinkest it may not, and methinketh it may no more do it in this case.

Stud. I think well it be as thou sayest in those cases: but in this case, that is so necessary for the good order of the king’s subjects, and for the commonwealth, methinketh they may, for if curates have virtue and cunning, commonly the people be virtuous, and virtue is the most chief and principal branch of the commonwealth. And therefore for increase thereof, methinketh that the parliament may well set a pain, although there were no spiritual law made in that point before, as well as it may of infants, that be received into the habit of religion, whereof mention is made before in the tenth addition. But in this case, since the spiritual law is already, that none shall be made priests, but they that be sufficiently lettered, methinketh that the parliament may much more the rather do it. And therefore, if the people would not assent to keep an holiday, that were ordained by the church, I suppose that the parliament if they thought it reasonable to be kept, might set a pain upon all them that would not obey unto it. And that it might do likewise upon all other laws, that be made by the church for the good order of the people, though it might not percase make a new law in the self points, for that should not be a breaking of the liberty of the church, but rather an affirmance of it.

Doct. I feel thy conceit well; howbeit I cannot fully asyet, assent unto it: and therefore I pray thee give me a sparing therein, and at a better leisure, I shall with goodwill shew thee farther of my mind therein. And now I will ask thee another question.