(Latin: prae, before; scribere, to write; legal sense, limitation)

A legal method in both ecclesiastical and civil law of acquiring ownership and liberating oneself from burdens; hence division into acquisitive and liberating prescription. Common good demands that the possesson of property should not remain uncertain and exposed to, constant litigation, hence the legal institution of prescription. Certain conditions are necessary; the person must be capable of having dominion over the object claimed, for certain things are not prescribable, e.g., rights and obligations of natural or Divine law, things deputed to public use. Actual possession is necessary which must be continual; public so that the one against whom the prescription proceeds can easily know it; pacific, not taken by force or been the object of litigation; certain and not dubious. The possessor must have a title to the thing and be in good faith during the entire time of prescription. Time must also be considered; 160 years are required for prescription relative to the Holy See; 30 years relative to any other ecclesiastical corporation; civil law is to be followed relative to private persons. In American and English law, lands or movables cannot be claimed by prescription. There is special legislation regarding prescription of judicial processes.

New Catholic Dictionary

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