The benefice (from medieval Latin praebenda derived for "maintenance"), plural livings , even stipend , historically also Pfrund (in Switzerland) or Proeven called (in northern Germany), originally referred to a donation . Later it designates the income from a secular or ecclesiastical office , in particular the food or maintenance payment granted by a natural or legal person . The term is also used for the office itself with an independent income for the office holder or for a fee to finance this office. Today there are still benefices from the earnings of church properties or assets that have outlived the secularization .
In the early and high Middle Ages , before the general implementation of the monetary economy , this system of indirect financing of an office offered the possibility of financing such positions independently and on a long-term basis. Beneficiaries were also called pensioners in hospitals who had secured permanent accommodation and care by bringing in a legacy .
As early as the Middle Ages, popes and councils opposed the unification of several benefices to one person ("accumulation of benefices"), because the allocation of several incomes - especially in different places - was not compatible with the personal performance of official duties, the residence obligation . Therefore, the benefices were gradually withdrawn in favor of a direct payment of the officials.
A benefice that still exists today is often set up in Germany as a foundation with legal capacity that belongs to ecclesiastical assets and is usually legally represented by church organs (e.g. ordinariate , church council). The sexton foundations and church schools still existing in many places, for example in Saxony, also have the legal character of a benefice. Whether benefices are foundations under ecclesiastical, public or private law depends on their time of origin and the locally applicable (state) law. Maintenance in a monastery , home or hospital, often at favorable conditions through purchase or a foundation, can also be called a benefice for those who hold public offices . A person making use of such services in claim is prebendaries (or Präbendar or Präbendarius , in Northern Germany Prövener ) mentioned.
In today's colloquial language, the term usually appears with a negative connotation when a “fat benefice” is intended to designate an office that brings in significantly more than what is required for it.
- Example: BFH judgment of May 13, 1987 (II R 225/82) BStBl. 1987 II p. 722
- Immacolata Saulle Hippenmeyer: Benefices. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .