Statutes of Provisors

This name is given to several Acts of Parliament which strove to check the practice of papal “provision” or nomination (principally of foreigners) to vacant benefices over the heads of the rightful patrons. The first Statute of Provisors (1351) stated this principle broadly and provided for the expulsion of intruders. The first Statute of Praemunire* (1353) imposed penalties for controverting the same in foreign courts. The Second Statute of Praemunire (1365) confirmed these laws which, however, Edward III with the support of the papacy chose to ignore. The anger of Parliament and laity in general broke out more violently against Richard II, who breached the statutes even more flagrantly than his grandfather, and led to the Second Statute of Provisors (1390) and the Third Statute of Praemunire (1393), which enforced the previous regulations more stringently. Despite this the practice of provision continued down to the Reformation and was revived under Queen Mary (Tudor). Catholic historians have explained away these acts by arguing that they were not clashes between pope and people but between royal and papal administrations, and that papal provision was positively beneficial in comparison with the native variety. But the evidence is clear: papal provision of nonresident aliens was a scandal and contributed directly to the Reformation.