The Maronite clergy

SOURCE: Notables and Clergy in Mount Lebanon by Richard Van Leewen, Chapter 4: Section I

The Maronite clergy

The Maronites originally had few contacts with the Ottoman authorities, or, if such contacts did exist, little evidence of them has survived. In a document from 1609, the governor of Tripoli formally endorsed the judicial authority of the patriarch, summoning the Maronites to comply with his judgment. Some sources mention a more or less regular recognition of the "bishop of lhdin" (i.e. the patriarch) by the Ottoman authorities in the 17th century. What the implications of these decrees probably were, is shown by a buyuruldi issued by the governor of Tripoli in | 1705, acknowledging the newly chosen patriarch and confirming the freedom of the clergy, on condition that the ruin tax be paid without default.4

Officially, the Maronites were obliged to pay the jizya tax, or poll tax for non-Muslims. It seems that in the 17th century poll taxes were paid in the coastal cities and the Mountain in various forms (khardj, shdshiyya, jaliyya). Sometimes the clergy and monks were explicitly exempted since they were considered "poor" and thus not subject to taxation. There are, however, indications that extraordinary arrangements were agreed upon for the financial relations between the clergy and the local authorities. Patriarch "Awwad (1705-1733) in particular paid regular amounts to the Hamada muqaddams of Bsham.5

The history of the relations between the Maronite church and the Roman Mother Church are still a matter of debate and polemics. Little is known about the structure of the Maronite church before contacts with the Vatican were restored, and several delegations were sent to Mount Lebanon to report on the situation of the Christian communities from the 16th century onwards. Usually, however, the history of the Maronite church is divided into two stages: the period before the Lebanese Council in 1736, which is marked by a diffuse organizational structure and the predominance of the patriarch over the mutrans, and the period after the Council, which formalized the hierarchical and organizational structure of the church, sealed the union of the Maronites with Rome and introduced reforms touching upon the authority of the patriarch and the role of laymen in church affairs. In this chapter some aspects of the organization of the Maronite church and the relations between lay notables and the church will be analyzed, as they can be perceived before 1736, especially in the period leading up to the reforms of the Lebanese Council.

As far as we know, before the 18th century the organization of the Maronite church was predominantly based on customary practice, as no codices of regulations for the legal basis of the church hierarchy and organization existed. As sources for the history of the Maronites before 1700 are scarce, a reconstruction of the structure of the Maronite church in this period can only be tentative.

Traditionally, the Maronite community was, at least formally, led by the patriarch and the church hierarchy, which was shaped according to the model of the Eastern Christian churches. Before the 18th century the patriarch enjoyed full authority over the body of clergymen consisting of metropolitans (mutran), deacons (khuri), priests (qass) and chaplains (shidydq, shammds). In theory, the rank of mutran was not identical to that of usquf (litt. "bishop"), or ra'is al-asdqifa ("archbishop"), but in practice the distinction disappeared in the course of time. The duties of the prelates were twofold: ritual performance, i.e. the right to hear confessions and to perform the sacraments; and administrative rights and duties, such as the nomination of clerics, the collection of tithes, etc. This study will concentrate on the second category, as it is intimately connected to the social role of the clergy and the relationship between the church and the secular powers.6

The title of the patriarch read "Patriarch of Antioch and all of the Orient" {Batriyark Mawdrina Antdkiya wa-Sd'iral-Mashriq), but this formulation was never endorsed by the Vatican and was only used by some patriarchs. The patriarch was entitled to ordain mutrans