PLURALISM, in canon law, means the possession by the same person of two or more ecclesiastical offices, whether of dignity or of emolument. Pluralism has been heldunlaw ful from the earliest times, and is forbidden by many councils, as Chalcedon, c. x. (451 A.D.), 2d Niefea, c. xv. (787 A.D.). This prohibition, however, was not regarded as absolute and admitting no possible exception; the natural ground of the prohibition being the impossibility, in ordinary cases, of the same individual adequately discharging the duties of more than one office. It has been held, therefore, that in cases in which this impossibility does not really exist, the union of two or more offices in the hands of one person might, speaking absolutely, be permitted without infringina. the divine law. Canonists therefore distinguish "compatible" and "incompatible" beneficics or dig nities. Two benefices may be incompatible in three ways—(1) if each requires residence (ration residentia); (2) if the duties of both fall to be aiseharged at one and the same time (rationc serritii); or (3), if the revenue of either fully suffices for the becoming main tenance of the incumbent sustentationis). In' other cases benefices or dignities are considered compatible, and with the due dispensation may be held by the same per son. The rule by which dispensations from the law of residence are to be regulated, as well as the penalties for its violation, whether on the part of the patron or on that of the recipient, have formed the subject of frequent legislation. as in the 3d and 4th councils of the Lateran, in the decretals of Innocent III. and many other popes, and especially in those of the council of Trent. In general, it may be said that the canon law regard: as incompatible (1) two benefices each having the cure of souls; (2) two " (3) a "dignity" and a cure of souls; (4) a cure of souls and a simple requiring resi dence. In other cases than these the pope is field to have the power of dispensing. There is no department of discipline, however, in which the tendency to relaxation has been greater or more persistent; and one of the gravest of the abtnres of the church was the prevalence of pluralism of " incompatible" benefices, even of bishoprics; and although a constant effort was made to prevent this abuse, the evasions of the law were not only frequent, but even screened from punishment. In later times the evil has in great
measure disappeared in the Roman Catholic church.
The English law, before the reformation, in the main coincided with the canon law; and the legislation of Henry VIII. preserved the same genentl spirit, only substituting the of the crown for that of the pope.
By 13 and 14Viet., c. 98. it is provided that no incumbent of a benefice shall take and hold together with it another benefice, unless the churches are within three miles of One another by the nearest road, and the annual value of one of them does not exceed £100. Nor can two benefices he held together if the Population of one exceeds 3,000, and that of the other exceeds 300. The word benefice in this sense includes any perpet mil curacy, endowed public chapel, parochial chapelry, or district ehapelry. But a dis pensation or license can be obtained from the archbishop, so as-to allow two benefices to he held together; and if the archbishop refuse his license, the party may appeal to the privy council. A special provision is also contained whereby the head ruler of any col lege or hall in the universities of Oxford or Cambridge, or warden of Durham university, is prohibited from taking any cathedral preferment or any other 'practice. If any spir itual person holding a benefice shall accept another benefice contrary to the statute. the first benefice shall ipso facto become void. At the same time, provision is made by statutes for uniting benefices where the aggregate population does not exceed 1500, and the aggregate yearly value does not exceed L500.—In Ireland no faculty or dispensation could be granted to any spiritual person to hold two or more benefices.—In Scotland it is contrary to an old Scotch statute for a minister of the established church to hold two or more charges; but the question has arisen almost exclusively with reference to clergy men appointed professors before or after an appointment to a country charge, in which case a resignation is necessary of one of the offices within .a certain time after the appointment; but this disqualification does not apply to city charges.