Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Dispensation. In the Roman Catholic Church, the relaxation, of a law in a particular case where circumstances render it inapplicable. Aristotle (Ethics, v.) pointed out that law, though universal, cannot possibly be so stated as to cover all cases, and that a higher justice or "equity" is required to meet exceptions. On this doctrine the Roman Catholic theory is based. The Pope, as the successor of St. Peter (to whom was granted the power of binding and loosing), can dispense from such obligations to God as have been voluntarily undertaken, and also from all ecclesiastical laws. Bishops have a similar but less extended power; while priests can dispense from many obligations - e.g. fasting (in the case of illness, for instance). The term is also used, commonly in Protestant theology. to signify one of the different periods and methods of God's dealings with mankind - e.g. "the Jewish dispensation," "the New Testament dispensation."