Terms & titles: Church law, civil law, Catholicism

Map of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis envelopes 188 parishes across 12 counties in the Twin Cities metro area of southeastern Minnesota. It was established in 1850 as the Diocese of Minnesota and the Dakotas, and was elevated to an archdiocese a few decades later.

The archdiocese claims 825,000 Catholics in its population. It reaches from Red Wing and the Wisconsin border in the east to Pine Island, Faribault and Cleveland in the south, follows U.S.-169 and U.S.-212 for a bit to the west and travels north through Norwood Yount America and Annandale to Clearwater at its northwesternmost border. | Brow collapsese the archdiocese's map

MPR News' investigation into the archdiocese's handling of clergy sexual abuse of minors arrives squarely at the confluence of church law — canon law, which governs Catholic church operations and hierarchy — and civil law, which is put forth by the state and other civil authorities. Each has its own peculiar terms, titles, documents and procedures. Understanding them is helpful in understanding the investigation itself.

Term Definition
active ministry "Active ministry" is a colloquial term often used by church leaders to describe a priest's status. If he is described as being "in active ministry," typically that implies he is assigned to a specific role at a church, school, hospital or elsewhere.

If he is described as having been "removed from active ministry," the implication is often that he is no longer assigned to regular parish, school or other such work that might bring him into regular contact with a community of people.

"Active ministry," however, is not an official Catholic Church or canon law term, and does not specifically describe an official status or assignment. Its meaning is often murky, and broadly defined.
archbishop An archbishop is the leader of an archdiocese. He is appointed by -- and responsible to -- the pope. He oversees the spiritual and practical administration -- of buildings, programs, schools, employees, priests -- of an archdiocese.

He is required specifically to celebrate Sunday Masses and holy days within his diocese, to encourage those interested to join the clergy, to defend religious freedom, to teach, to be an example of humility and simplicity, to visit each of the parishes in his diocese at least once every five years, to enforce and promote canon law and to celebrate the sacraments with the people of his diocese. He is also his diocese's representative to his fellow American bishops and to the Vatican when they gather to discuss social, political or ecclesiastical issues. [ Code of Canon Law: Requirements for becoming a bishop]
archdiocese An archdiocese is a regional collection of Roman Catholic parishioners, parishes, schools, organizations and institutions, overseen by -- and, ultimately, responsible to -- an archbishop. If a diocese is in a large and influential area-- includes a big city or metro area, for instance -- it is often called an archdiocese, and is governed by an archbishop.

Organizationally, however, a diocese and archdiocese are the same. The priests within an archdiocese report to the archbishop, who is responsible for assigning them to work at parishes, schools, hospitals and organizations within its jurisdiction. The archdiocese is considered both an administrative and spiritual hub for Roman Catholics in the region it covers. There are 195 dioceses/archdioceses in the United States today. [EWTN: Archdiocese v. Diocese]
associate pastor See "parochial vicar." This is a title for a parish priest.
auxiliary bishop Sometimes, the work of running a diocese requires more than a single bishop or archbishop can do. In those cases, a bishop can make a request to the Vatican for an auxiliary bishop to be assigned to his diocese. The auxiliary bishop becomes the bishop's deputy and assists the diocesan bishop or archbishop in the spiritual and ecclesiastical governance of the diocese, standing in for him if he is absent.

The diocesan bishop or archbishop must also appoint the auxiliary bishop(s) as vicar(s) general or episcopal vicar(s). He is also required by canon law to consult with his auxiliary bishop(s) in matters of major importance -- and vice versa.

If a diocesan bishop leaves his office -- whether because he is reassigned, retires, dies or resigns -- an auxiliary bishop does not, by default, succeed him. [Code of Canon Law: Auxiliary bishops]
bishop A bishop is a priest who has been appointed by the pope to lead a diocese. A priest becomes a bishop through a series of four steps: First, he's added to a list of candidates for would-be bishops, should his or other dioceses need a new bishop. Next, if his candidacy matches the need in a particular diocese and the pope would like to place him, the pope appoints him bishop there.

Then -- often, a few weeks later -- he he is consecrated as bishop of the diocese. (This is the step that elevates a diocesan priest to bishop status and installs a man who has already been a bishop somewhere else into a new diocese.) Finally, the new bishop "takes canonical possession" of the new diocese, meaning he is now given the authority to begin his work as leader in the diocese. See "archbishop" for more.
canon law The Code of Canon Law is the set of laws and regulations that govern the spiritual and practical workings of the Roman Catholic Church. [Code of Canon Law]
canon lawyer A canon lawyer is a person who has earned a graduate degree -- licentiate of canon law (J.C.L.) -- in canon law to become expert in the code, its interpretation and its history. Canon lawyers can use their expertise to advise church leaders and parishioners on matters ranging from the installation of a new bishop to marriage annulments to church closings and clergy misconduct.

In addition to their roles in ecclesiastical courts (as judges, promoters of justice, vicars, lawyers, etc.), they often also serve many roles within local dioceses (such as chancellor for canonical affairs) and the Vatican itself. [Canon Law Society of American]
celibacy Celibacy is the state of not being married. Catholic priests promise to remain celibate for life. Given that the Catholic Church regards sexual activity outside the sacrament of marriage to be a violation of the Sixth Commandment (of the Ten Commandments), a vow of celibacy becomes an implicit oath of chastity. [Vatican II: Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests]
chancellor for canonical affairs The Chancellor for Canonical Affairs is the archbishop's top advisor on canon law and primary canon lawyer to members of the archdiocese -- clergy, lay people and others. The position can be filled by a member of the clergy or by a layperson.

The Code of Canon Law requires that each diocese establish a chancellor to oversee the diocese's records and archives. In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Chancellor for Canonical Affairs serves that function, as well. He or she issues the paperwork needed to allow visiting clergy to work in the diocese (and to allow diocesan priests to work elsewhere), helps parish councils draft and revise their official documents, coordinates requests for audiences with and blessings from the pope, and other related functions. The vice-chancellor for canonical affairs also helps parishioners with documents needed to coordinate marriages within the diocese.
chancery The chancery is the administrative home of the archdiocese. Technically, a chancery is an administrative or governing office where documents are kept. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' main offices are located in its chancery building, just across the street from the Cathedral of St. Paul, at the corner of Summit and Selby avenues in St. Paul. [Directions]
Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth The Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth is a comprehensive set of procedures established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The Charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse. [USCCB: The Charter]
Charter priest In 2002, just after the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth was enacted by the American bishops, church leaders across the country began the work of identifying priests within their dioceses who fit the criteria for removal from the priesthood: They were known to have abused, at least once. Those priests became known colloquially as "Charter priests," and according to the guidelines of the Charter, their cases should have been sent to the Vatican for laicization.
clergy review board In 1995, Archbishop John Roach established a clergy review board for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in response to sexual abuse of children. When the board's work began, Roach said he intended it would review individual cases of allegations against priests, look into archdiocese's past decisions in the priests' cases and scrutinize the archdiocese's policies regarding sexual abuse.

The board would also make recommendations for action, assignments and punishment in the cases of individual priests. The board reported directly to the archbishop. Its nine members were appointed by the archbishop: three were priests. Of the six laypeople, one must be a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker; another must be an attorney and another must be "experienced in law enforcement or legal matters."

The other three members are considered at-large, and may include a victim or family member of a victim as well as a parish employee from somewhere in the archdiocese. One of the at-large members is permitted to be non-Catholic. The clergy review board remains in place today. [Roach's letter establishing the Clergy Review Board]
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the branch of the Vatican -- one of the nine "congregations" of the Roman Curia -- that is responsible for maintaining and defending Catholic doctrine around the world. It is the oldest of the congregations, and perhaps the most notorious: It's the office that was responsible for the church's many Inquisitions, and is known informally as the Holy Office.

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith deals with a breadth of issues, including the "grave delicts" -- those crimes against the faith that are considered the most serious, such as abuse of minors and crimes against the Eucharist. [Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith]
Holy See The Holy See refers to the religious jurisdiction of the Pope in Rome. The Holy See is different, for instance, than the Vatican/Vatican City, which refers to the Pope's political and diplomatic jurisdiction.

The Pope is the bishop of Rome -- and Rome is the primary diocese of the Roman Catholic church. As such, the Holy See is the ecclesiastical center of the Roman Catholic Church. [a href="http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm" target="_blank">Holy See]
laicization Laicization is the process of being removed from the priesthood, or "dispensed from the obligations of the clerical state," including the obligation of celibacy. The process for laicization is strict, and requires permission from the Holy See. Typically, a priest must request laicization for himself.
laity "Laity" refers to Catholics who are not clergy -- that is, all Catholics who have not had the sacrament of Holy Orders. Although they have not pursued clerical life, Catholics believe that members of the laity have their own vocations, beyond those who become nuns or monks. The role of the laity within the church has evolved significantly across the decades, with increased participation in the sacramental and practical life of the church. Above all, their mission is to live out the teachings of Catholicism in their everyday lives. [Vatican II: A Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity]
layperson A non-clergy member of the Catholic Church. See "laity."
mandated reporter In Minnesota, several categories of people -- including health care workers, child care providers, teachers, corrections workers, law enforcement officers and clergy -- are required to report neglect, mental injury and physical or sexual abuse of children to authorities if they witness or hear of it. They have a three-day window to report the abuse.

Mandated reporters can be charged with a crime if they do not report the abuse. [Minnesota Department of Human Services: Child protection]
marriage tribunal A marriage tribunal is a council of judges, trained in canon law, who hear cases of Catholic couples seeking annulments to determine if their marriages are valid and must continue, or if they are invalid and can be nullified. In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Metropolitan Tribunal handles marriage cases and other issues of canon law within the archdiocese. [Metropolitan Tribunal]
Mass "Mass" is the name for the Eucharistic liturgy of the Roman Catholic church. Catholics are obligated to attend Mass every Sunday and on the six days designated "holy days of obligation" -- major church holidays, such as Christmas, the Immaculate Conception, All Saints Day, etc.

The Mass is divided into four parts: the introductory rites, the liturgy of the word, the liturgy of the eucharist and the concluding rites. During the liturgy of the eucharist, Catholics celebrate the sacrament of the eucharist -- during which, they believe, bread and wine at an altar in the church becomes the body and blood of Jesus through the prayers of the congregation and the role of the priest. The belief is called transubstantiation, and after the bread and wine become body and blood, baptized Catholics who have received their First Communions consume it. Celebrating the Mass is a central part of a parish's spiritual expression. [CatholicTV: Watch Mass 24/7]
Metropolitan Tribunal see "Marriage tribunal"
order priest An order priest is a priest who has taken a vow to a specific religious order, and not to a diocese. He is responsible to his superiors within his community -- the Jesuits, the Dominicans, the Franciscans, etc. -- and often takes specific vows according to the values and norms of his order. Religious orders typically serve internationally, so he might work within a diocese or organization, and then move to a wholly different diocese or organization, somewhere else in the world. [More on order priests v. diocesan priests]
ordination Ordination happens when the sacrament of Holy Orders is celebrated. It is one of Catholicism's seven sacraments, and is reserved only for men becoming priests, bishops or deacons. When a man is ordained, he is consecrated, set apart. When he becomes a priest, for example, he is then able to administer some of the sacraments -- hear confessions, for instance, and consecrate the Eucharist at Mass. A bishop has the ability to ordain priests or other bishops, under the guidance of the pope, and can also celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. [National Catholic Reporter: The meaning of ordination]
papal nuncio The papal nuncio is the pope's diplomatic envoy to any country with which the Vatican, as a civil entity, has a political relationship. He is also a point of contact, within the United States, between the bishops and Vatican officials. His office serves as a means of delivery for documents headed to the Vatican from dioceses across the United States, for instance, and he is often the messenger within the priestly ranks whenever an appointment or transfer is about to be announced.
parochial administrator When a parish is pastor-less -- or if a pastor is unable, for whatever reason, to perform his duties -- the archbishop immediately appoints a parochial administrator to run the parish temporarily. A parochial administrator is always a priest. The administrator is required to fulfill the same spiritual and pastoral duties as a pastor -- but he is not allowed to do anything or make any decisions that would "harm parochial goods" or impede the rights of a permanent pastor, once he's appointed. When a new pastor is appointed, the parochial administrator must update him on the state of the parish and what has happened during the administrator's tenure.
parochial vicar Often, a parish needs more than its pastor in order to function. In that case, a diocesan bishop or archbishop appoints one or more parochial vicars -- also known as associate or assistant pastors -- to serve the congregation. The priests share the pastoral and administrative work required to run a parish and serve its people -- but the pastor is the parish's leader and its primary celebrant of Masses and the sacraments. The parochial vicar, for example, needs the pastor's blessing to celebrate baptisms, confirmations, anointing of the sick, funerals and weddings. He is appointed to the parish by the bishop, but reports to the pastor.
pastor A pastor is a priest in charge of running a parish. He is appointed by the diocesan bishop and is responsible for the spiritual guidance and wellbeing of the parish community and the financial, physical and other maintenance of the community's assets: Its buildings, its grounds, etc. A pastor reports to the diocesan bishop or archbishop, and works under his authority and at his will. According to canon law, "he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying and governing." He is required to celebrate Mass every Sunday at his parish, and to be involved in the sacraments at the center of parish life. He "is to be outstanding in sound doctrine and integrity of morals and endowed with zeal for souls and other virtues; he is also to possess those qualities which are required by universal or particular law to care for the parish in question," according to canon law.
pope The pope is the bishop of Rome and the top leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics believe that he is St. Peter's successor, and as such the shepherd of the worldwide church. He is elected by the College of Cardinals, and serves for life -- or until he chooses to resign.
removal from active ministry see 'active ministry'
Roman Catholic A person is Roman Catholic if he or she has been baptized in the Roman Catholic church and looks to the Pope and the Roman Curia for ecclesiastical guidance.
vicar general In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the vicar general is the archbishop's "principal deputy." He is always a priest, and is appointed by the archbishop. He assists the archbishop in his role as administrator and caretaker of the archdiocese -- from a spiritual and practical perspective -- and can act on his behalf in matters of governance. The Code of Canon Law requires that a bishop appoint at least one vicar general. In some cases -- as in the Twin Cities -- the size of a diocese and the scope of its work require more. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis typically appoints two vicars general to serve as deputies to the archbishop. One, the archbishop's top deputy, also serves as Moderator of the Curia, coordinating the ministries and services of the archdiocese.