PLACET, plê'set, or pla'rset (PLACETUM REGIUM, REGIUM EXEQUATUR, LITTERÆ PAREATIS): Formal state approval of measures of ecclesiastical administration, or state provision that only ecclesiastical administrative measures thus approved shall be civilly recognized and maintained.

Development of the Placet.

This presupposes that both State and Church are mutually independent. In the case of a church governed, as the Reformed state church came to be, by the civil power, the placet is meaningless; and it is equally inapplicable where the State, in, ecclesiastical affairs, is completely dependent on the authority of the Church, as was the case in the Middle Ages from the time of Gregory VII. The placet, therefore, first becomes a part of the machinery of the State when the latter begins to revolt from the Church and to deem itself independent. Concomitantly with the development of royal power, this occurred first in Spain, during the reign of Alfonso XI. (1348). In that country, the placet had already been formulated in a series of royal ordinances when the Emperor Charles V. ascended the throne and made decisive use of this device with the aid of the Cortes. In France the placet did not arise till nearly a century later, there assuming a distinct character through the practical bearings of the French parliaments. The rule that papal bulls gained legal validity only by virtue of the royal placet was practically current in France before becoming established by legislation in 1475. In the Netherlands, while the rudiments of the placet are very old, it was only in the Spanish period that it was legislatively established (1565), its form here receiving marked influence from Spanish jurisprudence and from the French culture dominant in the Walloon portion of the country.

Mutual Attitude of Church and State.

In so far as these developments arose prior to the Reformation, the Church, like the modern Roman Catholic communion, never acknowledged the civil placet but, in virtue of her divine commission, asserted the prerogative of sole power to prescribe


whatsoever might be deemed necessary for her best interests even in secular affairs, particularly of a legislative character. She accordingly held ecclesiastical requirements to be binding in their very nature, and regarded the State as unreservedly pledged to lend her the support of the secular arm. The bull In cæna Domini (1668) pronounces excommunication on all who obstruct the publication and execution of papal bulls and briefs. By the brief Pervenerat (June 30, 1830) Pius VIII, rejected the placetin dealing with the estates of the ecclesiastical province of the Upper Rhine; and Pius IX. followed the same course in his allocution Meminit unusquisque (Sept. 30, 1861), as well as on other occasions, and emphasized it in the Syllabus (§ 30). The Roman Catholic Church denies categorically that the State possesses any jurisdiction over things which the Church has declared spiritual, and the Curia and its sympathizers view the use of the placet by the State as an act of compulsion to which they must submit so long as there is no feasible way to overcome it. By the State these ecclesiastical pronouncements were long disregarded. When the bull In cæna Domini (q.v.) was published in Spain without royal approbation, Philip II. retaliated with most stringent measures; and the placet was also upheld by his successors. In France, jurisprudence and legislation alike developed this legal instrument even down to concrete details; and only when the enactment of the Church was concerned with religion alone was there no need of State approval. The French theory, modified by the Belgian development of Hispano-Gallican theory and practise, was also of essential influence upon the evolution of German jurisprudence.

The Placet in Modern Times

As a logical consequence of the social freedom guaranteed by a constitutional government, associations for religious purposes regulate and, so far as their social means permit, control their own affairs. Similar freedom is enjoyed by the Roman Catholic Church. Here the placet has no place as long as the State is not bidden to transcend its own sphere, which it alone can gage, and to protect the special interests of the Church; or so long as its own interests do not lead it to restrict the freedom of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church, on the other hand, neither recognizes any limitations of this character, nor does it concede to the State the right to decide how far to further the interests of the Church, but it demands implicit obedience. This double relation of Church and State, which was clear to the former from the first, but only gradually became evident to the letter, conditioned the development of the controversy concerning the placet in Germany from the time when constitutional government came to have a distinct meaning.

German states retaining the placet are Bavaria, Saxony, Wurttemberg, Baden, Hesse, Saxe-Weimar, Brunswick, and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, as well as the imperial provinces of'Alsace and Lorraine; though the several state codes diverge considerably as regards details. Officially the Roman Catholic Church; never recognizes the placet; and in Bavaria, for instance, the church dignitaries have simply ignored it when publishing the Vatican decrees, thus repeatedly giving rise to severe controversies not only regarding the validity of the placet in general, but also concerning its validity in the case of dogmas in particular. The theory advanced by influential ultramontane leaders, that the placet should be abrogated since Church and State are independent of, though coexistent with, each other, would be correct if the Church were willing to see her ordinances preserved intact simply by the social agencies of her rule in the sphere o£ conscience. But since, to secure this end, she lays claim, either directly or indirectly, to civil means, this ostensible coexistence practically becomes the Gregorian elevation of the Church above the State. If, therefore, the modern State freely concedes to the Roman Catholic Church the right of regulating its own religious concerns, it can do so only in the sense in which it concedes autonomy of any character, on condition of State supervision, and of the State's consequent right either to approve or to forbid.

Those states which still enforce the placet as a special institution make it apply to Protestants as well as to the Roman Catholic Church. Even the states which no longer take cognizance of the placet as such are not content with the fact that the sanction of church laws rests in the hands of the territorial sovereign; for in the case of such laws, they require either the countersignature of a minister of state, or preliminary approbation by ministers of state for drafts of such laws. See also NOMINATIO REGIA.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The one book of value here is E. Friedberg, Die Gr&uunl;nzen zwischen Staat and Kirche, Tübingen, 1872. But See CHURCH AND STATE, and the literature there adduced.


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