The giuspatronato (in Latin "jus patronatus") is a privilege and duty granted to a family regarding the altar of a church. It involves the duty to protect and maintain the altar and has generally been granted to those who are able to make adequate provisions for equipping it. Those who actually manage the altar draw allowances from trust accounts.
The jus patronatus is usually associated with the "jus praesentandi", which is the familial privilege to select the presiding clergyman. Generally, the jus praesentandi requires approval by the bishop or the community. The giuspatronato began centuries ago, and has usually been granted to the nobility. It may be inheritable by bequest, in which case a commoner might find himself in the position to exercise the right.
While the privilege is still popular, mainly in areas where it is granted by competition, examinations or free elections, the practice is growing gradually less common. The giuspatronato has served to give the laity influence over the parish priest, rector or chancellor. The privilege also serves to impress communities with the need to maintain a clergyman.
In some communities the nomination of the Bishop must be ratified by local associations rather than elections. Some attempts by the Church to eliminate this institution have not succeeded, as they have been perceived as an attack on the traditions of the community.
The historical antecedents
As Prof. Frangipane asserts in his thesis: "The giuspatronato , or jus patronato, or simply patronage, had its origins in the Church's gratitude toward its benefactors during the high Middle Ages. The main distinction of the later form of patronage, which serves to distinguish it from past expressions, is that of presentation as opposed to institution allowing multiple candidates to be nominated and considered for the office in question."
In 1917 there was an effort to limit and decrease the number of giuspatronati. In pursuit of this goal, Canon 1450 of the Canonical Codex Juris forbade the creation of any new privileges, while Canon 1451 recommends that the ordinaries encourage patrons to renounce the privilege in exchange for spiritual favor.
- Thesis by Prof. Frangipane, "Cenni sul Giuspatronato Frangipane a Porpetto"