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Chancellor, Diocesan (Eparchial)


The chancellor of a diocese is a person whose principal work is to care for the archives of the diocese. The word "chancellor" comes from the Latin cancellarius. In ancient Rome the cancellarius was the doorkeeper who stood at the latticework or chancel, which separated the magistrate in the law courts from the people, and admitted petitioners. He gradually assumed the work of a kind of secretary or notary with judicial powers. The term chancellor was later given to the civil notaries whom the bishops were empowered to appoint by the legislation of Charlemagne.

As the curias of the bishops began to develop, the need grew for repeated use of authentic documents and written testimony drawn up by a public person of ecclesiastical authority. The Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) ordered bishops to have a public person or two other competent men for the work of drawing up both judicial and extrajudicial acts [Corpus iuris canonici, ed.E. Friedberg (Leipzig 187981; repr. Graz 1955) X2.19.11; cf. J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Concilorum nova et amplissima collectio, 31 v. (FlorenceVenice 175798); repr. and cont. by L. Petit and J. B. Martin 53 v. in 60 (Paris 18891927; repr. Graz 1960), 23.154]. These officials came to be termed variously: chancellors, notaries, actuaries, and tabelliones.

The Third Provincial Council of Milan (1573), besides designating the chancellor as notary, also made him custodian of the archives. One of its decrees ordered the curial documents to be preserved in the episcopal archives under the care of the chancellor, who was to keep the key to them. This and other local legislation and custom gradually produced the general law setting up the office of chancellor with his double function of public notary in the curia and custodian of the diocesan archives.

Under present law [Codex iuris canonici (Rome 1918; rep. Graz 1955) c. 482 §1; Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalium, c. 252 §1], the chancellor is the authorized official whose chief functions are to preserve in the archives the acts of the curia, to arrange them in order, and to compile an index of them. By reason of office the chancellor is also a notary (Codex iuris canonici c. 482 §3; Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalium, c. 252 §3).

As to qualifications, the chancellor must be of good reputation and above all suspicion. In the Eastern Churches, the chancellor must be a deacon or a priest (see Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalium, c. 252 1); this is not the case in the Latin Church.

The diocesan bishop can freely remove the chancellor from office. A diocesan administrator may not remove a diocesan chancellor without the consent of the college of consultors (Codex iuris canoninci c. 485; CCEO c. 255). If necessary, the chancellor may be given an assistant tant with the name of vice-chancellor (Codex iuris canonici c. 482; §2; CCEO c. 252 §2). The chancellor's duties are performed in subordination to the bishop and the vicar-general.

In many dioceses, particularly in the U.S., the chancellor has additional functions. These are not given, however, by the general law, which defines his duties merely as those of archivist-notary. In such instances the chancellor receives delegated jurisdiction, in whole or in part, from the bishop, and not by virtue of office (Codex iuris canonici c. 981 §1).

Bibliography: l. mathias, The Diocesan Curia (Madras 1947) 3539. j. e. prince, The Diocesan Chancellor (Catholic University of America, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Latin, Language and Literature 167; Washington 1942). f. x. wermz and p. vidal, Ius canonicum, 7 v. in 8 (Rome), v. 1 (2d ed. 1952), v. 2 (3d ed. 1943), v. 3 (1933), v. 4.1 (1934), v. 4.2 (2d ed. 1936), v. 5 3d ed. 1946), v. 6 (2d ed. 1949), v. 7 (2d ed. 1951) 2:644645.

[e. a. forbes/eds.]

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