Terms and Expressions

Apostolic College - the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ considered as a group. Also, their successors, the bishops of the Catholic Church, considered as a group.


Apostolic See/Holy See - a See is the seat or place of a bishop. Rome, being founded by the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, is the Holy and Apostolic See among all Sees. Canon 361 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC c.361) states that these terms apply "not only to the Roman Pontiff but also to the Secretariate of State, the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church and other institutions of the Roman Curia, unless the nature of the matter or the context of the words makes the contrary evident."


Cardinal - a title applied to those whom the Pope has designated papal electors should he die. They also serve as his advisors. The Cardinalate is usually conferred upon the Archbishops of major dioceses (such as Paris, Madrid, Chicago, Mexico City etc.) and also upon the heads of the Roman Curial offices. However, the Pope may give the honor to whom he wills, and John Paul II has conferred it on simply priests (e.g. theologian Henri de Lubac) and in history it has even been conferred on lay men. (see CIC cc.349-359)


Curia - originally the name of a ruling body and the place of its assembly (such as the Roman Senate in ancient times), it applies today to the offices and tribunals which assist the Pope, or any diocesan bishop, in the fulfillment of his ministry. (CIC cc.360-361)


Dicastery - an office or bureau of the Holy See, such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


Internal Forum - the arena of conscience, such as revealed to a confessor in the Sacrament of Penance, to a spiritual director or any other situation where there is an expectation of complete confidence from the clergy. The Church provides canonical sanctions for the violation of the internal Forum (automatic excommunication in the case of a priest revealing the contents of a confession identifiable with a particular penitent.) External Forum concerns matters of Church governance and of public record, marriage and its validity, for example.


Juridical Authority - the legal weight and binding authority of the decisions of the Roman Curia comes from the will of the Supreme Pontiff. Canon 360 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states: The Supreme Pontiff conducts the business of the universal Church by means of the Roman Curia, which fulfills its duty in his name and by his authority.


Petrine - refers to the unique ministry of St. Peter as the Chief Apostle among the apostles. His successors as Bishop of Rome inherit his ministry to be the principle of unity among the bishops and thus for the whole Church and to guard and confirm the faith of his brother bishops and thus of the Church.


Supreme Pontiff - Pontifex (bridge builder) was a priestly title in ancient Rome, connoting the role of mediator between the gods and men. Applied to the Holy Father it points to the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ which he possesses in his capacity as bishop to the universal Church.