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Glossary of Church Terms



priest-theologian over the age of 80 has been named a cardinal to honor his

theological contributions to the church. See

College of Cardinals



Refers to a decision to live chastely in the unmarried state. At ordina-

tion, a diocesan priest or unmarried deacon in the Latin rite Catholic Church

makes a promise of celibacy. The promise should not be called a “vow.”




. See




The chief archivist of a diocese’s official records. Also a notary

and secretary of the diocesan curia, or central administration; he or she may

have a variety of other duties as well. It is the highest diocesan position open

to women.


In its general sense chastity does not mean abstinence from sexual

activity as such, but rather moral sexual conduct. Marital chastity means faith-

fulness to one’s spouse and moral conduct in marital relations. The religious

vow of chastity taken by brothers, sisters and priests in religious orders is a

religious promise to God to live the virtue of chastity by not marrying and by

abstaining from sexual activity. When diocesan priests and unmarried deacons

make a promise of celibacy, they are not taking religious vows; their commit-

ment to live chastely in an unmarried state should be described as a promise,

not a vow. See




Apart from its obvious use to refer to a building where Christians

gather to worship God,


has a rich theological and doctrinal meaning

for Catholics that also sets limits on how it is applied. The





means the (arch)diocese, the community of faithful gathered around

the altar under its bishop. Each particular church has all the necessary means

of salvation according to Catholic teaching—that is, fidelity to apostolic teach-

ing, assured by ordained ministry in apostolic succession; the seven sacraments

accepted throughout Christianity before the Reformation; and all the communal

means to holiness that God grants through his graces. The

universal church

the meaning of

catholic church

, lowercased

is the communion of all those

particular churches spread throughout the world who are in union with the

bishop of Rome and who share in fidelity to apostolic teaching and discipleship

to Christ. Catholics also recognize the mainline Orthodox churches as churches;

and until the recent ordination of women in several Old Catholic churches of

the Union of Utrecht, the Catholic Church had recognized Union of Utrecht