EXEMPTION: In canon law, the liberation of one or more persons or ecclesiastical institutions from the jurisdiction of the ordinary superior, another, frequently higher, being substituted, especially the pope. These exemptions are allowed to be made only on sufficient grounds, for the good of the Church. Apart from regular papal grant, they may be claimed on the ground of a forty years' unopposed prescription. The oldest and most frequent instances are those of orders or monasteries. Originally all the monasteries of a diocese were subject to the bishop. In the West the strictness of some bishops led certain monasteries to obtain letters of protection either from the bishops or from kings and popes. Papal privileges freeing them absolutely from episcopal jurisdiction, the first of which date from the sixth and seventh centuries, were rare until the time of Gregory V. (996-999); but in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries they became frequent, and were extended to entire orders, as well as to cathedral and collegiate foundations. The weakening of the episcopal authority and frequent conflicts between bishops and persons enjoying exemption led to complaints, in consequence of which, at the Council of Constance (1418), Martin V. revoked all exemptions from the jurisdiction of the ordinary granted since the death of Gregory XI. (1378); and Leo X. at the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17), among a number of reforming decrees, issued one which considerably limited the system. The evils complained of continued, however, to such an extent that the Council of Trent took up the question, in spite of the protests of the generals of orders who were present. It required regulars to obtain the license of the bishop in order to administer the sacrament of penance or to preach outside their own conventual churches, to publish in these churches censures imposed by the bishop, to observe these as well as the fast-days proclaimed by him, and to take part in public processions. They were to be subject to episcopal jurisdiction and visitation in regard to the cure of souls outside of their own members. The bishops were authorized to take cognizance of any public scandal by regulars, and to punish them in case their own superiors failed to do it. Other duties imposed on them as ex officio delegates of the apostolic see were the chastisement of regulars living outside their convents in case of misbehavior; the disciplining of regulars who were incompetent to preach, who preached heresy or scandalous error, or who did not observe the decrees of the Council regarding the mass; the enforcement of strict enclosure on nuns; the annual visitation of the churches of exempt clergy and care for the proper performance of pastoral duties; the introduction into monasteries of systematic instruction in Holy Scripture; and the execution of the Council's decrees on monastic reform.
Canon law distinguishes between passive exemption, which gives the holders of the privilege jurisdiction only over the members of their own community, the churches attached to it, and the laity living within their bounds, and active exemption, which gives the holders a wider and quasi-episcopal jurisdiction. Of these latter are the pręlati nullius (sc. dięceseos), who have power over a definite territorium separatum, free from diocesan connection and subject directly to the pope; if these are not bishops, they must, of course, resort to the neighboring bishop for strictly episcopal functions. An analogous case is the exemption of certain diocesan bishops from metropolitan jurisdiction (see ARCHBISHOP), and their subjection directly to Rome. In modern times, also, the military and naval forces of certain countries have been under a military vicar or chaplain-general named by the pope, who usually had episcopal orders (see BISHOP, TITULAR); this has been the case, e.g., in Austria since 1720, and in Prussia since 1868, with a break from 1873 to 1888. There are also exemptions from parochial jurisdiction, either for orders and monasteries, or for specially privileged persons or classes. Somewhat similar exemptions from the authority of the superintendent or consistory still occur in the Lutheran Church of Germany; and there are a number of cases, known as "peculiars," in the Church of England, the most notable being the chapels-royal in London and Windsor, which are under the immediate jurisdiction of the sovereign, and Westminster Abbey, of which the dean is the ordinary.