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Glossary of Church Terms




Refers to a bishop or groups of bishops, or to the form of church

governance in which ordained bishops have authority.

episcopal vicar.

A priest or auxiliary bishop who assists the diocesan bishop

in a specific part of the diocese, over certain groups in the diocese, or over cer-

tain areas of church affairs. Some large dioceses, for example, are divided geo-

graphically into several vicariates or regions, with an episcopal vicar for each;

some dioceses have episcopal vicars for clergy or religious or for Catholics of

certain racial or ethnic groups. See

vicar general



A penalty or censure by which a baptized Catholic is

excluded from the communion of the faithful for committing and remain-

ing obstinate in certain serious offenses specified in canon law. Even though

excommunicated, the person is still responsible for fulfillment of the normal

obligations of a Catholic.


Church authorization, given by the law itself or by a church superior,

to perform certain official church acts. In some rare cases a member of the

clergy will be denied certain faculties, such as hearing confessions or preach-

ing during the liturgy, because of public positions taken that are not in accord

with church teaching.

finance council.

A diocesan body mandated by the

Code of Canon Law


is charged with preparing the annual diocesan budget and annually review-

ing diocesan expenses and revenues. The finance council must be consulted

for financial transactions of a given dollar level undertaken by the bishop and

must give its consent to transactions at another dollar threshold. The thresh-

old amounts are established periodically by an agreement with the Holy See

and are currently subject to annual inflation changes determined by the cost

of living index.


In Catholic usage, the term is used most commonly to refer col-

lectively to the bishops of the world or a particular region. In technical uses,

however, it may refer to all those who are ordained: deacons and priests as

well as bishops. In the canon law of the Eastern Catholic churches,


is a term regularly used to describe the bishops of a church when describing

their collective authority or function.