The Doctor and Student (1518)

Christopher St. Germain

What authority the parliament has concerning visitations

Doct. Whether may the parliament prohibit, that none ordinary, nor none other, that hath power to visit, shall not take any money or pension of the houses or places, that they visit, at their visitation.

Stud. I think the parliament hath good power to do it. For the money that they receive, though it be given by occasion of a spiritual thing, is temporal, and is under the power of the parliament, as all temporal lands and goods be. And if there be a cause reasonable why they should make that prohibition, then it bindeth as well in conscience as it doth in the law: and an example is thereof by probate of testaments. For though the probate be a thing spiritual, yet the parliament hath of late, as it might lawfully do, set a pain, that none shall pay for the probate above a certain sum limited by the statute. And also by the statute that is called in Latin Statutum de Carols de asportatis religiosorum, it is enacted, That no house of religion of beyond the sea, should from thenceforth, under colour of visitation, or other colour, set any tallage or imposition upon any house of religion, that is subject unto it in England, upon the pain to forfeit all that it hath under the king’s power. And the statute will further; That nevertheless the said abbots and priors aliens shall not cease of their visitation within this realm: so that they bear no money nor goods from the houses in England. And methinketh, that like as the parliament had then power to prohibit., that the abbots and priors aliens should not under colour of visitation or otherwise, set any tallage or imposition upon any house of religion to them subject in England, that the parliament may now as well prohibit, that none under colour of visitation, or otherwise, shall take of any house of religion or church, that they shall visit, any sum of money, or other thing, whatsoever it be. For methinketh, that the reason in the one case, and in the other, is all one.

Doct. It seemeth nay. For at the making of that statute the parliament intended principally to provide, that no goods should be conveyed out of the realm by any religious persons, which they did sometime under colour of visitation: but in this case it needeth not to provide any remedy in that behalf, as it is evident of itself. For there be no goods conveyed out of this realm by reason of such visitations.

Stud. Though the principal intent of the said parliament was to provide, that no goods should be conveyed out of the realm by religious persons: yet as for a special surety that it should be so, they thought it necessary to prohibit, that the head houses of beyond the sea should not by colour of their visitation in England do it. For they thought that that was a ready way to bring the money into their hands, that they might after carry it with them into their country and since the parliament had then authority to prohibit, that the said visitors should not, by colour of their visitations, gather any tallage or imposition set upon them, that they visited in England: why might not the parliament now likewise prohibit, that the visitors, at their visitations, should gather no such tallage or imposition, as hath been set in time past upon such houses and churches as they do visit. For certain it is, that at the beginning of visitations no such impositions nor pensions were paid: but that they have been brought up since that time, either at the motion of them that were visited, to the intent that they might thereby have the more favour of their visitors, or else by power or compulsion of the visitors, or for their singular lucre, or haply by both ways. But what way soever it began: if it should hereafter come to the point, that the visitors at their visitations, by reason of the said impositions or pensions, should be inclined to any singular affection, and so to forbear the good reformations, that they ought to look to in the monastries and churches that they visit, whereby evil doers should take boldness to continue in evil, and well-doers be discouraged from their virtuous exercises in the service of God, I suppose verily, that they that by good authority, and with a charitable intent, would take the said impositions and pensions from the said visitors, should deserve thereby right great thank, and reward of God. But I trust, there should be no such cause to move them to it. And now I intend thus to make an end of the authority of the parliament for this time, and will ask of thee but one short question concerning the matter that we treated of in the first addition, and so commit thee to our Lord.

Doct. What is that?

Stud. It is this: If a curate since the statute of mortuaries, thinking the said statute to be against the liberty of the church, persuadeth his parishioners to believe, that all they that keep the statute, stand in the censures of the church, and thereby induceth. many of them, specially at the point of death, to recompence him as much as their mortuaries by estimation would have amounted to: whether hath he good right to that, that is given under that manner?

Doct. If it be as thou sayeth, that the statute standeth with conscience, then hath he no right thereto in conscience. For he cometh to it by an unjust means, and grandeth himself for the having of it, upon an untruth: and so the giver is deceived in his gift, and therefore it bindeth not in conscience, though it bind in the law. And I suppose, that though the curate say, as he thinketh therein, that yet it sufficeth not, but that he, is bound to restitution, for ignorance, as methinketh, cannot excuse the restitution, though peradventure it may excuse him, that it shall not be in him any deadly sin.

Stud. I think it be as thou sayest, and as it is in this point, it is in divers other articles, upon the said jurisdictions. Wherefore methinketh, it would be more plainly declared in many things what belongeth to the one jurisdiction, and what to the other, than it is yet, as I have said before, and that hath caused me to treat farther this matter now at this time, than I thought to have done.

Doct. I think it be as thou sayest: but if I might be so bold, I would desire to know thy mind in one thing and no more, and that is this: Of what effect the statute is, that was made the 2 Hen. V., ch. I, whereby it is enacted, That ordinaries shall have power by the king’s commission to inquire of the hospitals of his foundation and of their governance, and to certify the king in his Chancery thereof. And of hospitals of others foundation they have power to enquire, and do correction after the law of holy church.

Stud. At a leisure I will gladly shew thee my mind therein, but for this time I pray thee hold me excused, for I will no more speak of that matter as now. And thus God of peace and love be alway with us. Amen.