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Covering the Local Church



the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s Catholic center is located in Albuquerque, N.M.;

the chancery office of the Diocese of Baker, Ore., is located in Bend.

The way diocesan offices are structured varies widely from one diocese to

the next. But there are some offices every diocese must have by church law,

such that vicar general, chancellor, finance office and a tribunal; and there

are some offices that virtually every diocese needs as a practical matter, such

as offices for Catholic schools, religious education or catechetics, Catholic

Charities or social services, and liturgy or worship.


The bishop who heads a diocese is called the

diocesan bishop

. He is the chief

legislator, executive and judge in the diocese. He alone can legislate. He can

exercise executive power personally or through vicars general or episcopal

vicars. He can exercise judicial power personally or through a judicial vicar

and judges.

If the diocesan bishop has other bishops assisting him, they are called

auxiliary bishops

. In some circumstances, especially if he has health problems

that limit his ministry or if he is nearing retirement, a diocesan bishop may

ask for a coadjutor. A

coadjutor bishop

has right of succession; that is, upon

the death or retirement of the diocesan bishop, the coadjutor immediately

becomes the new diocesan bishop. Auxiliary bishops do not have the right of


Auxiliary bishops always have the title of bishop—

Auxiliary Bishop John



Bishop Smith

—whether they serve in a diocese or archdiocese. When

a coadjutor is appointed to an archdiocese, however, he has the title of arch-


Coadjutor Archbishop John Smith


Archbishop Smith


Vicar General and Episcopal Vicars

The bishop’s chief administrative aide, the

vicar general

must be a priest or

bishop, ordinarily with a licentiate or doctorate in canon law or theology.

Small dioceses typically have only one, but larger dioceses may have several. A

vicar general has the same ordinary executive powers over the whole diocese

as the diocesan bishop, with the exception of those powers the bishop has

reserved to himself and those reserved to the bishop alone by church law.

Ordinarily the priest or bishop designated as moderator of the curia is also

a vicar general. If there is a coadjutor bishop, church law says he is to be made a

vicar general. If there is an auxiliary bishop, he is to be made a vicar general.