On the Italian peninsula the post-Tridentine bishops were particularly concerned with the excessive numbers of the secular clergy. Seminaries, created to train and improve clerical behaviour, operated only irregularly and for short periods. The attention of both ecclesiastical and lay authorities was focused primarily on the necessity of controlling the great numbers of clergymen, particularly in southern Italy. The principal causes of this plethora of clerics were economic and social. But the particular institution of the 'ricettizio' system, present in up to 70 per cent of parishes in the southern provinces, also contributed. In these parishes, the care of souls was collective, delegated by the capitular body to a vicar-curate, who was chosen from within the local chapter. The chapter would then give its 'ricetto' ( ' reception' or' shelter') to all clerics originating from the parish, priests and tonsured clerics alike, according to well-defined rules. Strong local and family interests, and the lay patronage of oligarchal groups, meant that this system was both autonomous and well-integrated within southern Italian society. Not only did this institution lead
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