PRAGMATIC SANCTION: In the period of the late Roman Empire, a solemn rescript of the emperor, especially one issued on matters of public law upon motion of a city, province, or church. It is called "pragmatic" because issued after consultation and negotiation concerning the matter (pragma). Of enactments affecting the Church three are to be mentioned:
I. The sanctio pragmatica referred to Louis the Pious of France, of 1268 (1269), if genuine, would be one of the earliest edicts of the thirteenth century to check the excessive extension of the papal power and the abuses of the Curia; particularly with reference to the inordinate demand for revenue and the enlargement of the papal reservation with reference to appointments. Of the six articles included, the first guarantees to all prelates, patrons, and ordinary collators of benefices their plenary rights and the unrestricted maintenance of their jurisdiction; and art. 4 complements the former by providing that all promotions, bestowals, fiefs, and dispositions must conform with the provisions of the common law and of the earlier councils, and the early institution of the Fathers. Art. 3 secures to cathedrals and other churches freedom of elections, promotions, and collatures, without, however, infringing upon the privileges of the king with reference to the appointment of prelates, the granting of the permission for an election, the right of the Regale (q.v.), and the royal investiture. Art. 4 also prohibits simony. Art. 5 permits papal revenues and other obligations only on justifiable, pious, and urgent grounds and only with the approval of the king. Art. 6 guarantees the liberties, prerogatives, and privileges granted by the French kings to churches, monasteries, and sacred institutions as well as to the clergy of the realms. The opponents of Gallicanism (q.v.), however, have earnestly disputed the genuineness of the law, so that in France there remains scarcely a doubt of its forgery. In Germany opinion was divided until P. Scheffer-Boichorst (Gesammelte Schriften, i. 255, Berlin, 1904) established the forgery beyond a doubt. He placed its origin in the year 1438; others, in 1452.
II. The pragmatic sanction of Bourges by Charles VII. of France was issued July 7, 1438, in consequence of a national synod at Bourges (May, 1438), which indorsed the greater number of the reform edicts of the Council of Basel (q.v.) but proposed certain modifications as affecting the French Church. The edict consisted of twenty-three articles. The decrees which were accepted were incorporated bodily. Above all, the French church and the law of the State affecting the Church thereby adopted unchanged the decrees of the superiority of the council to the pope, the regular convening of ecumenical councils, and the restrictions of papal reservations and revenues. The modifications covered the maintenance of the right of nomination for the king and princes of fit candidates, the extension of the rights of the qualified in the awarding of benefices, the preservation of ordinary jurisdiction over against the conduct of processes by general councils; compensation to the pope for the abolition of annats and the preservation of special customs, observances, and statutes of the French Church. Internal ecclesiastical affairs thus became subject for secular enactment. The modifications intended for the acceptance of the Council of Basel were put in power by the royal edict, though the council could no longer resolve upon their acceptance or rejection. The sanction was naturally opposed by the popes in their effort to regain prestige. Pius II., in 1453, pronounced it to be an infringement upon the papal prerogatives and ordered the French bishops to effect its repeal. When Louis IX. repealed the sanction in 1461, the parliament of Paris, under the protection of which it had been placed, refused; and it has remained essentially unchanged. See CONCORDATS AND DELIMITING BULLS, III., 2.
III. The so-called German pragmatic sanction of Mar. 26, 1439, never became a law and the term is misleading. At the Diet of Mainz the electoral princes and the representatives of the Roman king and of the absent princes, after the example of the French, adopted a series of the decrees of the Council of Basel, and demanded certain modifications, and considered certain other proposed alterations to be submitted to the council. The act was, however, never approved or proclaimed by royal rescript and has been pointed out as merely a provisional union of the individual German princes concerning their attitude toward the conflict between the pope and the council.
Pragmatic sanction is the name given also to the document by which Emperor Charles VI. attempted to secure his Austrian possessions to his daughter Maria Theresa (cf. J. H. Robinson and C. A. Beard, Development of Modern Europe, i. 61 sqq., 68, Boston, 1907; Cambridge Modern History, vi. 201, New York, 1909).