PROVISION (Lat. pronsio), a. term meaning strictly the act of providing, or anything provided, especially in respect of food (provisions) or other necessaries. In constitutional law it signifies the act by which an ecclesiastical office or benefice is conferred by a person having competent authority for the purpose; and the word is specially used of appointments made by the pope in derogation of the rights of ecclesiastical patrons. Innocent III. (1198-1216) seems to have been the first pope who directed prelates to collate his nominees to canonries and other benefices, but it was during the pontificate of Innocent IV. (1243-1254) that the practice first assumed alarming proportions. Vigorous protests were then made in England and France against the large number of papal provisions in favour of nonresident Italian clerks. These protests were not without effect for a while; but the popes, finding it impossible to carry on the work of government without this means of rewarding their servants, soon began to show little regard to national protests. The English parliament held at Carlisle in 1307 petitioned the king for a remedy against this abuse, but though he promised redress nothing was done. Meanwhile the popes had been asserting claims to appoint bishops in certain events on their own initiative, and at last Clement V. (1305-1313) reserved to himself the right of appointment in all cases. After his time there is scarcely an instance of an English bishop being elected in accordance with the older procedure by the cathedral chapter. If an election were made the pope usually either overrode it by another appointment or, ignoring the election, appointed the elected clerk by a bull of provision. The Hundred Years' War caused an outburst of indignation against the use of papal provisions, whether to the canonries and collative offices or to bishoprics. The popes had taken up their residence at Avignon and had become mere creatures of the kings of France. The English nobility and gentry were bitter at seeing vast sums of money pass out of the country into the hands of their enemies. To remedy the evil the first Statute of Provisors was enacted in 1351. It declared that the free elections of bishops and other dignitaries should take place in accordance with the ancient practice; that bishops and ecclesiastics should have free presentations to benefices and offices in their gift; that in the event of any provision being made by the pope the king should have the same right of collation as his progenitors had before they granted free election; and similarly where the pope provided to a benefice or office in the gift of secular or regular clergy the king was to have the collation for that occasion. Provisors who interfered with the rights of the king or patron were liable to arrest and imprisonment on conviction. The act was supplemented in I 353 by the first Statute of Praemunire, by which appeals outside the realm were prohibited and persons who offended were made liable to outlawry. This legislation against papal provisions was anti-clerical rather than anti-papal. There are no signs that it was promoted by the English clergy, who seem to have accepted the claim of the popes to control their patronage. In spite of the statutes the popes still continued, as the papal registers show, to make provisions to English benefices and offices, and it is evident that the statutes were not enforced. The Statute of Provisors was confirmed by a second statute in 1364, but this again seems to have had little effect. Attempts were made to establish a concordat on the subject between the king and pope; its terms, however, were all in favour of the latter. At last, in 1389, a third Statute of Provisors was enacted which provided that the statute of 1351 should be firmly holden for ever and " put in due execution from time to time in all manner of points." The new statute was carried into effect as regards canonries and benefices; but, until the Reformation, bishops were nominally appointed by a papal bull of provision. The person appointed, however, was usually nominated by the king, and the bull v/as not issued without' his consent.
AUTHORITIES. Statutes of the Realm ; Calendar of Papal Registers ; J. Le Neve, Fasti ecclesiae anglicanae; Rolls of Parliament; F. W. Maitland, Canon Law in the Church of England; W. Stubbs, Constitutional History of England; Anglia sacra. (G. J. T.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)