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A confraternity empowered to aggregate or affiliate other confraternities of the same nature, and to impart to them its indulgences and privileges. The preliminary requisite, the conditions governing aggregation, the ordinary method of conducting the process, and a list of the principal archconfraternities comprehend the information necessary to a proper understanding of the general subject.
A preliminary requisite to gain the indulgences is the canonical erection of the confraternity to be aggregated. Canonical erection is the approval of the proper ecclesiastical authority which gives the organization a legal existence. Archconfraternities do not erect confraternities; they merely aggregate them. It ordinarily belongs to the bishop of the diocese to erect confraternities. In the case, however, of many confraternities and archconfraternities the power of erection is vested in the heads of certain religious orders. Sometimes, especially in missionary countries or under abnormal conditions, the privileges of these heads of orders are imparted to bishops. Such extraordinary powers have been considerably restricted within recent years. The vicar-general may not erect confraternities unless he has been expressly delegated for the purpose by his bishop. For the aggregation itself the following are the principal regulations to be observed under penalty of forfeiting the indulgences. Aggregation, or affiliation, as it is also called, may be made by those only who have received from the Holy See express powers for that purpose. They must make use of a prescribed formula. In the same church only one confraternity of the same name and purpose may be aggregated. The consent of the bishop must be given in writing. But in the case of religious orders aggregating their own confraternities in their own churches, the consent of the bishop given for the erection of the house or church of the order is sufficient. The bishop must approve, but may modify the practices and regulations of the confraternity to be aggregated, except those to which the indulgences have been expressly attached. Only those indulgences are imparted by aggregation which have been conceded with that provision. Such indulgences must be enumerated in detail, as is usually done in the prescribed formula of aggregation; no tax may be imposed for aggregation, not even for diplomas, except the expenses requisite for paper and postage. For modifications of these regulations, the laws of the various archconfraternities should be consulted.
Only the general process of conducting the aggregation is given. If it pertains to the bishop to erect the confraternity, then the pastor of a church or the superior of a religious house petitions him for canonical erection, giving the kind of confraternity desired, its title, its patron saint, the church and locality where it is to be erected, its directors, and any deviations from the ordinary rules of the confraternity in question, and asking the consent of the bishop for aggregation to the archconfraternity. If the erection pertains to the head of a religious order, then the bishop's consent to the aggregation is required. In all cases the information just detailed must be sent to the bishop and to the head of the order to insure the validity of the process. Formulæ embodying such essential information may be obtained usually from the authorities in charge of a confraternity. Some of the more widely known the archconfraternities are those of the Holy Name, the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Precious Blood, the Holy Face, the Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Sodality of the Blessed Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners, the Cord of St. Francis, Christian Doctrine, Bona Mors, Christian Mothers.
BÉRINGER, Les Indulgences (Paris, 1905), II, gives the legislation on this subject, with a list of the archconfraternities, their nature and requirements, and formulæ for canonical erection and for aggregation. MOCCHEGIANI, Collectio Indulgentiarum (Quaracchi, 1897); TACHY, Traité des Confréries (Haute-Marne, 1898).