Diocesan administrator

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See: Catholic Church hierarchy#Equivalents of diocesan bishops in law

A diocesan administrator is a provisional ordinary of a Roman Catholic particular church.


Diocesan administrators in canon law

The college of consultors elects an administrator within eight days after the see is known to be vacant. [1] The college must elect as administrator a priest or bishop at least 35 years old. [2] If the college of consultors fails to elect a priest of the required minimum age within the time allotted, the choice of diocesan administrator passes to the metropolitan archbishop or, if the metropolitan see is vacant, to the senior by appointment of the suffragan bishops of the ecclesiastical province. [3]

A college, in the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, is a collection of persons united together for a common object so as to form one body. The members are consequently said to be incorporated, or to form a corporation.

Episcopal see the main administrative seat held by a bishop

An episcopal see is, in the usual meaning of the phrase, the area of a bishop's ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

Sede vacante is a term for the state of an episcopal see while without a bishop. In the canon law of the Catholic Church, the term is used to refer to the vacancy of any see of a particular church, but it comes into especially wide journalistic use when the see is that of the papacy.

If a diocese has a coadjutor bishop, the coadjutor succeeds immediately to the episcopal see upon the previous bishop's death or resignation, and there is no vacancy of the see. The see also does not become vacant if the Pope appoints an apostolic administrator.

Coadjutor bishop position

A coadjutor bishop is a bishop in the Catholic, Anglican, and (historically) Eastern Orthodox churches whose main role is to assist the diocesan bishop in the administration of the diocese. The coadjutor is a bishop himself, although he is also appointed as vicar general. The coadjutor bishop is, however, given authority beyond that ordinarily given to the vicar general, making him co-head of the diocese in all but ceremonial precedence. In modern times, the coadjutor automatically succeeds the diocesan bishop upon the latter's retirement, removal, or death.

Before the election of the diocesan administrator of a vacant see, the governance of the see is entrusted, with the powers of a vicar general, to the auxiliary bishop, if there is one, or to the senior among them, if there are several, otherwise to the college of consultors as a whole. The diocesan administrator has greater powers, essentially those of a bishop except for matters excepted by the nature of the matter or expressly by law. [4] Canon law subjects his activity to various legal restrictions and to special supervision by the college of consultors (as for example canons 272 and 485). The diocesan administrator remains in charge until a new bishop takes possession of the see or until he presents his resignation to the college of consultors. [5]

A vicar general is the principal deputy of the bishop of a diocese for the exercise of administrative authority and possesses the title of local ordinary. As vicar of the bishop, the vicar general exercises the bishop's ordinary executive power over the entire diocese and, thus, is the highest official in a diocese or other particular church after the diocesan bishop or his equivalent in canon law. The title normally occurs only in Western Christian churches, such as the Latin Church of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. Among the Eastern churches, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Kerala uses this title and remains an exception. The title for the equivalent officer in the Eastern churches is syncellus and protosyncellus.

Auxiliary bishop position

An auxiliary bishop is a bishop assigned to assist the diocesan bishop in meeting the pastoral and administrative needs of the diocese. Auxiliary bishops can also be titular bishops of sees that no longer exist.

Some Bishops ruled more than one bishopric for long. In any beside their primary bishopric, they would have to be called an administrator. Nevertheless, in local tradition often they are called bishops in all their bishoprics.

An episcopal conference can transfer the functions of the consultors to the cathedral chapter. [6] In those countries in which the episcopal conference has transferred the functions, the cathedral chapter, and not the consultors, elect the diocesan administrator. [7] Capitular election was the default rule before the adoption of the 1983 Code of Canon Law; [8] this old default rule is reflected in the term for the equivalent of a diocesan administrator in the 1917 code: vicar capitular.

An episcopal conference, sometimes called a conference of bishops, is an official assembly of the bishops of the Catholic Church in a given territory. Episcopal conferences have long existed as informal entities. The first assembly of bishops to meet regularly, with its own legal structure and ecclesial leadership function, is the Swiss Bishops' Conference, which was founded in 1863. More than forty episcopal conferences existed before the Second Vatican Council. Their status was confirmed by the Second Vatican Council and further defined by Pope Paul VI's 1966 motu proprio, Ecclesiae sanctae.

According to both Anglican and Catholic canon law, a cathedral chapter is a college of clerics (chapter) formed to advise a bishop and, in the case of a vacancy of the episcopal see in some countries, to govern the diocese during the vacancy. These chapters are made up of canons and other officers, while in the Church of England chapters now includes a number of lay appointees; in the Roman Catholic Church their creation is the purview of the pope. They can be "numbered", in which case they are provided with a fixed "prebend", or "unnumbered", in which case the bishop indicates the number of canons according to the rents. In some Church of England cathedrals there are two such bodies, the lesser and greater chapters, which have different functions. The smaller body usually consists of the residentiary members and is included in the larger one.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law, also called the Johanno-Pauline Code, is the "fundamental body of ecclesiastical laws for the Latin Church". It is the second and current comprehensive codification of canonical legislation for the Latin Church sui iuris of the Catholic Church. It was promulgated on 25 January 1983 by John Paul II and took legal effect on the First Sunday of Advent 1983. It replaced the 1917 Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Benedict XV on 27 May 1917.

Administrators of prince-bishoprics

Since the Investiture Controversy in 11th and 12th centuries the cathedral chapters used to elect the Catholic bishops in the Holy Roman Empire. Prince-bishoprics were elective monarchies of imperial immediacy within the Empire, with the monarch being the respective bishop usually elected by the chapter and confirmed by the Holy See, or exceptionally only appointed by the Holy See. Papally confirmed bishops were then invested by the emperor with the princely regalia, thus the title prince-bishop. However, sometimes the respective incumbent of the see never gained a papal confirmation, but was still invested with the princely power. Also the opposite occurred with a papally confirmed bishop, never invested as prince.

Investiture Controversy 11th- and 12th-century dispute between secular rulers and the papacy

The Investiture Controversy or Investiture Contest was a conflict between church and state in medieval Europe over the ability to install high church officials through investiture. By undercutting imperial power, the controversy led to nearly 50 years of civil war in Germany. According to historian Norman Cantor, the Investiture Controversy was "the turning-point in medieval civilization", marking the end of the Early Middle Ages with the Germanic peoples' "final and decisive" acceptance of Christianity. More importantly, it set the stage for the religious and political system of the High Middle Ages.

Holy Roman Empire Varying complex of lands that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe

The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.

Imperial immediacy was a privileged constitutional and political status rooted in German feudal law under which the Imperial estates of the Holy Roman Empire such as Imperial cities, prince-bishoprics and secular principalities, and individuals such as the Imperial knights, were declared free from the authority of any local lord and placed under the direct authority of the Emperor, and later of the institutions of the Empire such as the Diet, the Imperial Chamber of Justice and the Aulic Council.

Candidates elected, who lacked canon-law prerequisites and/or papal confirmation, would officially only hold the title diocesan administrator (but nevertheless colloquially be referred to as prince-bishop). This was the case with Catholic candidates, who were elected for an episcopal see with its revenues as a mere appanage and with all Protestant candidates, who all lacked either the necessary vocational training or the papal confirmation.

Protestant "elected bishops"

With many capitulars converting to Lutheranism or Calvinism during the Reformation, the majorities in many chapters consisted of Protestant capitulars. So they then also elected Protestants as bishops, who usually were denied papal confirmation. However, in the early years of Reformation, with the schism not yet fully implemented, it was not always obvious, who tended to Protestantism, so that some candidates only turned out to be Protestants after they had been papally confirmed as bishop and imperially invested as prince. Later, when Protestants were usually denied papal confirmation, the emperors nevertheless invested the unconfirmed candidates as princes - by a so-called liege indult (German : Lehnsindult) - due to political coalitions and conflicts within the empire, in order to gain candidates as imperial partisans.

Many Protestant candidates, elected by the capitulars, neither achieved papal confirmation nor a liege indult, but nevertheless, as a matter of fact held de facto princely power. This was because the emperor would have to use force to bar the candidates from ruling, with the emperors lacking the respective power or pursuing other goals. A similar situation was in a number of imperially immediate abbeys with their prince-abbots and princess-abbesses.

Unconfirmed incumbents of the sees were called Elected Bishops or Elected Archbishops. The information that Protestant clerical rulers would generally have been called administrators, as written in several encyclopedies, does not fit historically documented practice. [9] In their dioceses as well as in their territories, they had almost the same power as Catholic prince-bishops. However, one common restriction was that administered prince-bishoprics were denied to emit their deputees to the diets of the Empire or of the imperial circles (German : Reichstag, or Kreistag, respectively). This restriction was abandoned by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, when the emperor accepted Protestant administrators as fully empowered rulers. However, the Peace also secularised many of the prior Protestant prince-bishoprics and transformed them into hereditary monarchies.

Prince-bishoprics ruled by Protestant bishops

Prince-bishoprics, which were ruled by Protestants, were the following:

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  1. Code of Canon Law, canon 421 §1.
  2. Code of Canon Law, canon 425 §1. The word used in the canon (sacerdos) is not limited to a priest and applies also to a bishop.
  3. Code of Canon Law, canons 421 §2 and 425 §3.
  4. Code of Canon Law, canons 426-427
  5. Code of Canon Law, canons 430
  6. Codex Iuris Canonici Canon 502 § 3.
  7. See Codex Iuris Canonici Canon 421 § 1 (noting that the consultors elect the administrator, "without prejudice to the provisions of can. 502 §3").
  8. Codex Iuris Canonici Canons 431–432 (1917).
  9. Eike Wolgast: Hochstift und Reformation. Studien zur Geschichte der Reichskirche zwischen 1517 und 1648, Stuttgart 1995