The remarkable feature of French church polity was its aristocratic nature, which it owed to the system of co-optation; and the exclusion of the congregation from direct and frequent interference in spiritual matters prevented many evils which result from too much intermeddling on the part of the laity.
The conseil general fell more and more into the background, the members of the other councils gradually obtained the privilege of being irremovable, and the system of co-optation resulted in the creation of a close monopoly of political offices in the hands of a few leading families.
When the tenure of the religious colleges - formerly filled up by co-optation - was submitted to popular election, a change effected by a lex Domitia of 104 B.C., a new type of comitia was devised for this purpose.
The election of members was by co-optation on the motion of the president, who, with a flamen, was himself elected for one year.
Nevertheless, the seven great companies continued to choose the magistrates by co-optation among themselves.
Moreover, the town council, instead of being freely elected, filled up vacancies in its ranks by co-optation, with the result that all power became vested in a limited number of rich families.
The twenty-five were to hear and decide upon any claims and complaints preferred against the king, and to keep tip their numbers by co-optation, so that it would seem that the barons intended to keep a permanent watch upon the crown.
Vacancies were originally filled by co-optation, but by the Domitian law (104) the selection was made, by seventeen out of the thirty-five tribes chosen by lot, from candidates previously nominated by the college.
Amongst its members the following may be mentioned: Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, tribune of the people 104 B.C., brought forward a law (lex Domitia de Sacerdotiis) by which the priests of the superior colleges were to be elected by the people in the comitia tributa (seventeen of the tribes voting) instead of by co-optation; the law was repealed by Sulfa, revived by Julius Caesar and (perhaps) again repealed by Marcus Antonius, the triumvir (Cicero, De Lege Agraria, ii.
Vacancies in the body of pontifices were originally filled by co-optation; but from the second Punic War onwards the pontifex maximus was chosen by a peculiar form of popular election, and in the last age of the republic this held good for all the members.
All the members were patricians, vacancies being filled by co-optation from young men whose parents were both living; membership was for life, subject to certain exceptions.