Covering the Local Church
“Vicar”—from a Latin word for “substitute”—is used in a variety of contexts
in the Catholic Church, mainly to refer to officials who can substitute for a
bishop in his various duties. In addition to the vicars general, episcopal vic-
ars and judicial vicars mentioned above, “vicar” can be used for various offi-
cials in diocesan offices who are charged with overseeing a particular region
or ministry or other function on behalf of the bishop. Examples are vicar for
priests, vicar for religious, vicar for Spanish-speaking Catholics, regional vicar,
vicar for ethnic ministries. In each case, the person holding the title acts as the
bishop’s chief representative in a particular region of the diocese, particular
area of ministry, or oversight over ministries. Some dioceses divide their geo-
graphic regions as
, assigning a vicar to head each one.
Financial Officer and Council
A bishop is required to have a financial officer and financial council. For dioc-
esan financial transactions exceeding a certain amount, he must consult with
the council; at a higher threshold, he must have the council’s consent; at a still
higher threshold, he must obtain consent from the Vatican. These figures have
come into prominent news play several times in recent years in bankruptcy
protection dealings by several U.S. dioceses to settle lawsuits over the sexual
abuse of minors by clergy, including a notable case in which the Boston arch-
diocesan financial council rejected a proposed settlement that required its
approval. The dollar amounts for each threshold have been set by the USCCB
with confirmation by the Vatican, but over the years they have changed.
Other Typical DiocesanOffices
Most dioceses will also have offices for some or all of the following:
• Catholic Charities and/or social services.
• Catholic schools.
• Religious education.
• Liturgy or worship.
• Pro-life activities.
• Ecumenical and interreligious relations.