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Ordinaries, Ecclesiastical


"Ordinary" in Church law denotes those clerics listed in c. 134 of the Code of Canon Law. Ordinary jurisdiction is that power to govern which flows automatically from an office that a person holds (Codex iuris canonici c. 131 §1). This is distinguished from delegated jurisdiction, which is received by direct grant of one having authority without any essential relationship with an ecclesiastical office (Codex iuris canonici c. 131 §2).

Canon law does not define the term ordinary but simply enumerates those who are to be considered such. The Code of Canon Law in c. 134 lists the following as ordinaries: (1) the Roman pontiff; (2) diocesan bishops; (3) others who are placed over some particular church or community equivalent to a particular church according toc. 368 (e.g., abbots nullius and prelates nullius ); (4) the vicars general and episcopal vicars of those enumerated in (2) and (3); (5) for their own members, major superiors in clerical religious institutes of pontifical right and clerical societies of apostolic life of pontifical right who at least possess ordinary executive power. The code designates the following as major superiors: the supreme moderator of a religious institute or society of apostolic life; the provincial superior; the superior of an autonomous house; and the vicars of all those above mentioned (Codex iuris canonici cc. 620, 734).

Canon 134 makes the distinction between local ordinaries (those in groups 1 to 4 above) and other ordinaries (major superiors of clerical religious institutes of pontifical right and clerical societies of apostolic life of pontifical right who at least possess ordinary executive power). The local ordinary's jurisdiction extends over all those who are in the territory that he governs, whereas the jurisdiction of the religious ordinary is restricted to his own subjects.

In the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, the legislation on hierarchs is substantially the same as the Latin legislation on ordinaries (cf. Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalium c. 984).

Bibliography: u. beste, Introductio in codicem (5th ed., Naples 1961) 212216, 312. m. j. keene, Religious Ordinaries and Canon 198 (Catholic University of America CLS 135; Washington 1942).

[m. j. keene]

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