In the interests of theological accuracy and conformity to the language which Holy Church has historically employed in explaining the teachings of Her Divine Author, this site employs  terms and phrases which may be unfamiliar to both the new inquirer and those already familiar with the controversies discussed herein.

To encourage the reader of whatever background  in their pursuit of Catholic truth, we present a dictionary of terms or concepts found on this site.  Whenever possible, we have repeated the definitions found in an approved Catholic dictionary or encyclopedia, published in the era prior to Vatican II.

Because of the drastic changes which have taken place in the lives of Catholics and erstwhile Catholics as a result of the false Second Vatican Council,  in the last 50+ years there are words and phrases which did not and could not have existed before this period.  These terms are also found in this online dictionary, and the definitions we present are commonly understood by those whose lives or theological beliefs they reference.  In such instances, the terms or phrases usually denote a personal or group understanding of the identity of the Catholic Church either in reference to Vatican II or in an authentic Catholic response to it.

We encourage the sincere inquirer to make a  generous application of this glossary in pursuit of the issues addressed on this website and a greater knowledge and appreciation of our Catholic Religion.


A jure and ab homine:

Excommunication is either a jure (by law) or ab homine (by judicial act of man, i.e. by a judge). The first is provided by the law itself, which declares that whosoever shall have been guilty of a definite crime will incur the penalty of excommunication. The second is inflicted by an ecclesiastical prelate, either when he issues a serious order under pain of excommunication or imposes this penalty by judicial sentence and after a criminal trial.

(Also see: Excommunication)


A total defection from the Christian religion, after previous acceptance through faith and baptism. Refusal to accept a particular tenet of the faith is properly called heresy.

Apostasy may be merely interior, or exteriorly manifested as well. It may be formal (with full consciousness of the obligation to remain in the faith), or material (without such consciousness). Exterior formal apostasy involves excommunication, reserved in a special manner to the Holy See.

Apostasy from religious life is the unauthorized departure from a religious house of an inmate under perpetual vows, with the intention of not returning; or, if the departure be legitimate, a subsequent refusal to return in order thus to withdraw from the obligations of religious obedience. Such apostates incur excommunication.


Apostolicity is the mark by which the Church of today is recognized as identical with the Church founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles. It is of great importance because it is the surest indication of the true Church of Christ, it is most easily examined, and it virtually contains the other three marks, namely, Unity, Sanctity, and Catholicity. Either the word “Christian” or “Apostolic”, might be used to express the identity between the Church of today and the primitive Church. The term “Apostolic” is preferred because it indicates a correlation between Christ and the Apostles, showing the relation of the Church both to Christ, the founder, and to the Apostles, upon whom He founded it. “Apostle” is one sent, sent by authority of Jesus Christ to continue His Mission upon earth, especially a member of the original band of teachers known as the Twelve Apostles. Therefore the Church is called Apostolic, because it was founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles. Apostolicity of doctrine and mission is necessary. Apostolicity of doctrine requires that the deposit of faith committed to the Apostles shall remain unchanged. Since the Church is infallible in its teaching, it follows that if the Church of Christ still exists it must be teaching His doctrine. Hence, Apostolicity of mission is a guarantee of Apostolicity of doctrine. St. Irenæus (Adv. Haeres, IV, xxvi, n. 2) says: “Wherefore we must obey the priests of the Church who have succession from the Apostles, as we have shown, who, together with succession in the episcopate, have received the certain mark of truth according to the will of the Father; all others, however, are to be suspected, who separated themselves from the principal succession”, etc. In explaining the concept of Apostolicity, then, special attention must be given to Apostolicity of mission, or Apostolic succession. Apostolicity of mission means that the Church is one moral body, possessing the mission entrusted by Jesus Christ to the Apostles, and transmitted through them and their lawful successors in an unbroken chain to the present representatives of Christ upon earth. This authoritative transmission of power in the Church constitutes Apostolic succession. This Apostolic succession must be both material and formal; the material consisting in the actual succession in the Church, through a series of persons from the Apostolic age to the present; the formal adding the element of authority in the transmission of power. It consists in the legitimate transmission of the ministerial power conferred by Christ upon His Apostles. No one can give a power which he does not possess. Hence in tracing the mission of the Church back to the Apostles, no lacuna can be allowed, no new mission can arise; but the mission conferred by Christ must pass from generation to generation through an uninterrupted lawful succession. The Apostles received it from Christ and gave it in turn to those legitimately appointed by them, and these again selected others to continue the work of the ministry. Any break in this succession destroys Apostolicity, because the break means the beginning of a new series which is not Apostolic. “How shall they breach unless they be sent?” (Romans 10:15). An authoritative mission to teach is absolutely necessary, a man-given mission is not authoritative. Hence any concept of Apostolicity that excludes authoritative union with the Apostolic mission robs the ministry of its Divine character. Apostolicity, or Apostolic succession, then, means that the mission conferred by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles must pass from then to their legitimate successors, in an unbroken line, until the end of the world. This notion of Apostolicity is evolved from the words of Christ Himself, the practice of the Apostles, and the teaching of the Fathers and theologians of the Church.

The intention of Christ is apparent from the Bible passages, which tell of the conferring of the mission upon the Apostles. “As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you: (John 20:21). The mission of the Apostles, like the mission of Christ, is a Divine mission; they are the Apostles, or ambassadors, of the Eternal Father. “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth. Going, therefore, teach ye all nations; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world: (Matthew 28:18). This Divine mission is always to continue the same, hence it must be transmitted with its Divine character until the end of time, i.e. there must be an unbroken lawful succession which is called Apostolicity. The Apostles understood their mission in this sense. St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans (x, 8-19), insists upon the necessity of Divinely established mission. “How shall they preach unless they be sent?” (x, 15). In his letters to his disciples Timothy and Titus, St. Paul speaks of the obligation of preserving Apostolic doctrine, and of ordaining other disciples to continue the work entrusted to the Apostles. “Hold the form of sound words, which thou hast heard from me in faith and in the love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). “And the things which thou hast heard from me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting and shouldst ordain priests in every city, as I also appointed thee” (Titus 1:5). Just as the Apostles transmitted their mission by lawfully appointing others to the work of the ministry, so their successors were to ordain priests to perpetuate the same mission given by Jesus Christ, i.e. an Apostolic mission must always be maintained in the Church.

The writings of the Fathers constantly refers to the Apostolic character of the doctrine and mission of the Church. See St. Polycarp, St. Ignatius, (Smyrnæans 8), St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Athanasius (History of Arianism), Tertullian (Lib. de Praescipt, n. 32, etc). We quote a few examples which are typical of the testimony of the Fathers. St. Irenæus (Adv. Haeres, IV, xxvi, n. 2): “Wherefore we must obey the priests of the Church, who have succession from the Apostles,” etc. — quoted above. St. Clement (Ep. I, ad. Cor., 42-44): “Christ was sent by God, and the Apostles by Christ….They appointed the above-named and then gave them command that when they came to die other approved men should succeed to their ministry.” St. Cyprian (Ep. 76, Ad Magnum): “Novatianus is not in the Church, nor can he be considered a bishop, because in contempt of Apostolic tradition he was ordained by himself without succeeding anyone.” Hence authoritative transmission of power, i.e. Apostolicity, is essential. In all theological works the same explanation of Apostolicity is found, based on the Scriptural and patristic testimony just cited. Billuart (III, 306) concludes his remarks on Apostolicity in the words of St. Jerome: “We must abide in that Church, which was founded by the Apostles, and endures to this day.: Mazella (De Relig. et Eccl., 359), after speaking of Apostolic succession as an uninterrupted substitution of persons in the place of the Apostles, insists upon the necessity of jurisdiction or authoritative transmission, thus excluding the hypothesis that a new mission could ever be originated by anyone in the place of the mission bestowed by Christ and transmitted in the manner described. Billot (De Eccl. Christi, I, 243-275) emphasizes the idea that the Church, which is Apostolic, must be presided over by bishops, who derive their ministry and their governing power from the Apostles. Apostolicity, then, is that Apostolic succession by which the Church of today is one with the Church of the Apostles in origin, doctrine, and mission.

The history of the Catholic Church from St. Peter, the first Pontiff, to the present Head of the Church, is an evident proof of its Apostolicity, for no break can be shown in the line of succession. Cardinal Newman (Diff. of Anglicans, 369) says: “Say there is no church at all if you will, and at least I shall understand you; but do not meddle with a fact attested by mankind.” Again (393): “No other form of Christianity but this present Catholic Communion has a pretence to resemble, even in the faintest shadow, the Christianity of antiquity, viewed as a living religion on the stage of the world;” and again, (395): “The immutability and uninterrupted action of the laws in question throughout the course of Church history is a plain note of identity between the Catholic Church of the first ages and that which now goes by that name.” If any break in the Apostolic succession had ever occurred, it could be easily shown, for no fact of such importance could happen in the history of the world without attracting universal notice. Regarding questions and contests in the election of certain popes, there is no real difficulty. In the few cases in which controversies arose, the matter was always settled by a competent tribunal in the Church, the lawful Pope was proclaimed, and he, as the successor of St. Peter, received the Apostolic mission and jurisdiction in the Church. Again, the heretics of the early ages and the sects of later times have attempted to justify their teaching and practices by appealing to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, or to their early communion with the Catholic Church. Their appeal shows that the Catholic Church is regarded as Apostolic even by those who have separated from her communion.

Apostolicity is not found in any other Church. This is a necessary consequence of the unity of the Church. If there is but one true Church, and if the Catholic Church, as has just been shown, is Apostolic, the necessary inference is that no other Church is Apostolic. (See above quotations from Newman, “Diff. of Anglicans”, 369, 393.) All sects that reject the Episcopate, by the very fact make Apostolic succession impossible, since they destroy the channel through which the Apostolic mission is transmitted. Historically, the beginnings of all these Churches can be traced to a period long after the time of Christ and the Apostles. Regarding the Greek Church, it is sufficient to note that it lost apostolic succession by withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the lawful successors of St. Peter in the See of Rome. The same is to be said of the Anglican claims to continuity (MacLaughlin, “Divine Plan of the Church”, 213; and, Newman, “Diff. of Angl.”, Lecture 12.) for the very fact of separation destroys their jurisdiction. They have based their claims on the validity of orders in the Anglican Church. Anglican orders, however, have been declared invalid. But even if they were valid, the Anglican Church would not be Apostolic, for jurisdiction is essential to the Apostolicity of mission. A study of the organization of the Anglican Church shows it to be entirely different from the Church established by Jesus Christ.

(Moderator Comment:  We would encourage the inquirer to read the definition of jurisdiction, if this has not already been done.)

Canon Law:

Canon law is the body of laws and regulations made by or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. The word adopted is here used to point out the fact that there are certain elements in canon law borrowed by the Church from civil law or from the writings of private individuals, who as such had no authority in ecclesiastical society. Canon is derived from the Greek kanon, i.e. a rule or practical direction (not to speak of the other meanings of the word, such as list or catalogue), a term which soon acquired an exclusively ecclesiastical signification. In the fourth century it was applied to the ordinances of the councils, and thus contrasted with the Greek word nomoi, the ordinances of the civil authorities; the compound word “Nomocanon” was given to those collections of regulations in which the laws formulated by the two authorities on ecclesiastical matters were to be found side by side. At an early period we meet with expressions referring to the body of ecclesiastical legislation then in process of formation: canones, ordo canonicus, sanctio canonica; but the expression “canon law” (jus canonicum) becomes current only about the beginning of the twelfth century, being used in contrast with the “civil law” (jus civile), and later we have the “Corpus juris canonici”, as we have the “Corpus juris Civilis”. Canon law is also called “ecclesiastical law” (jus ecclesiasticum); however, strictly speaking, there is a slight difference of meaning between the two expressions: canon law denotes in particular the law of the “Corpus Juris”, including the regulations borrowed from Roman law; whereas ecclesiastical law refers to all laws made by the ecclesiastical authorities as such, including those made after the compiling of the “Corpus Juris”. Contrasted with the imperial or Caesarian law (jus caesareum), canon law is sometimes styled pontifical law (jus pontificium), often also it is termed sacred law (jus sacrum), and sometimes even Divine law (jus divinum: c. 2, De privil.), as it concerns holy things, and has for its object the wellbeing of souls in the society divinely established by Jesus Christ.

Catholic Action:

This expression…was given a special content and worldwide significance by Pope Pius XI.  He defined Catholic Action as “the participation and collaboration of the laity with the apostolic hierarchy”:  in other words, it was a call to Catholic lay people themselves to get busy and not to leave everything to the bishops and other clergy.  The scope of Catholic Action is very wide and varies from place to place:  it can be manifested in worship, in study, in active apologetics, in the corporal works of mercy and in a dozen other ways; but they must be in a true sense religious ways; any political activity is absolutely forbidden to Catholic Action—-that, said Pius XI, is its fundamental law…Catholic Action [can be] largely a personal ideal, an inspiration under which individuals and groups work for Christ and according to the mind of the Church and with the direct encouragement of her [lawful] pastors [when those pastors are available.  Catholic Action remains an obligation incumbent upon true Catholics in the absence of the legitimate hierarchy, but always according to the canons and ecclesiastical regulations of Holy Mother Church].

de fide:

Latin for, “of the faith”, this refers to teachings stated as Divinely revealed.  De fide teachings can be from the extraordinary or ordinary magisterium of Holy Mother Church.  To deny a single de fide teaching places one outside of the Catholic Church.


In the use found on this site, this refers to the canonical penalties attached to the commission of heresy.

Ex Delicto or Ex Defectu:

The main division of irregularities is into those which are the consequence of crime (ex delicto) and those which arise from defect (ex defectu), according as they have been imposed by law on account of crimes by reason of which a person becomes unworthy of the reception of orders or their exercise or have been imposed on account of certain defects which would be indecorous in a sacred minister. It is not to be supposed however that irregularity ex delicto has been directly and proximately imposed as a punishment; for when the Church declares one irregular on account of crime, she does not primarily intend the punishment of the guilty one, but rather desires to shield the sanctuary from profanation. As a consequence, irregularity ex delicto resolves itself logically into irregularity ex defectu. The distinction, however, must be retained in practice, both on account of the laws of dispensation and because irregularity ex delicto is a result of wrongdoing. This distinction has been taken by canonists from a decree of Pope Innocent III (cap. “Accedens”, xiv, X, “De purg. canon.”).


Excommunication (Latin ex, out of, and communio or communicatio, communion — exclusion from the communion), the principal and severest censure, is a medicinal, spiritual penalty that deprives the guilty Christian of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society. Being a penalty, it supposes guilt; and being the most serious penalty that the Church can inflict, it naturally supposes a very grave offence. It is also a medicinal rather than a vindictive penalty, being intended, not so much to punish the culprit, as to correct him and bring him back to the path of righteousness. It necessarily, therefore, contemplates the future, either to prevent the recurrence of certain culpable acts that have grievous external consequences, or, more especially, to induce the delinquent to satisfy the obligations incurred by his offence. Its object and its effect are loss of communion, i.e. of the spiritual benefits shared by all the members of Christian society; hence, it can affect only those who by baptism have been admitted to that society. Undoubtedly there can and do exist other penal measures which entail the loss of certain fixed rights; among them are other censures, e.g. suspension for clerics, interdict for clerics and laymen, irregularity ex delicto, etc. Excommunication, however, is clearly distinguished from these penalties in that it is the privation of all rights resulting from the social status of the Christian as such. The excommunicated person, it is true, does not cease to be a Christian, since his baptism can never be effaced; he can, however, be considered as an exile from Christian society and as non-existent, for a time at least, in the sight of ecclesiastical authority. But such exile can have an end (and the Church desires it), as soon as the offender has given suitable satisfaction. Meanwhile, his status before the Church is that of a stranger. He may not participate in public worship nor receive the Body of Christ or any of the sacraments. Moreover, if he be a cleric, he is forbidden to administer a sacred rite or to exercise an act of spiritual authority.


The term heresy connotes, etymologically, both a choice and the thing chosen, the meaning being, however, narrowed to the selection of religious or political doctrines, adhesion to parties in Church or State.

Josephus applies the name (airesis) to the three religious sects prevalent in Judea since the Machabean period: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes (Bel. Jud., II, viii, 1; Ant., XIII, v, 9). St. Paul is described to the Roman governor Felix as the leader of the heresy (aireseos) of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5); the Jews in Rome say to the same Apostle: “Concerning this sect [airesoeos], we know that it is everywhere contradicted” (Acts 28:22). St. Justin (Dialogue with Trypho 18) uses airesis in the same sense. St. Peter (II, ii, 1) applies the term to Christian sects: “There shall be among you lying teachers who shall bring in sects of perdition [aireseis apoleias]”. In later Greek, philosophers’ schools, as well as religious sects, are “heresies”.

St. Thomas (II-II:11:1) defines heresy: “a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas”. “The right Christian faith consists in giving one’s voluntary assent to Christ in all that truly belongs to His teaching. There are, therefore, two ways of deviating from Christianity: the one by refusing to believe in Christ Himself, which is the way of infidelity, common to Pagans and Jews; the other by restricting belief to certain points of Christ’s doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure, which is the way of heretics. The subject matter of both faith and heresy is, therefore, the deposit of the faith, that is, the sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition as proposed to our belief by the Church. The believer accepts the whole deposit as proposed by the Church; the heretic accepts only such parts of it as commend themselves to his own approval. The heretical tenets may be ignorance of the true creed, erroneous judgment, imperfect apprehension and comprehension of dogmas: in none of these does the will play an appreciable part, wherefore one of the necessary conditions of sinfulness–free choice–is wanting and such heresy is merely objective, or material. On the other hand the will may freely incline the intellect to adhere to tenets declared false by the Divine teaching authority of the Church. The impelling motives are many: intellectual pride or exaggerated reliance on one’s own insight; the illusions of religious zeal; the allurements of political or ecclesiastical power; the ties of material interests and personal status; and perhaps others more dishonourable. Heresy thus willed is imputable to the subject and carries with it a varying degree of guilt; it is called formal, because to the material error it adds the informative element of “freely willed”.

Home Aloner:

The term refers to the movie, Home Alone, popularized in 1990.  Theologically, the word was popularized by a Fr. Anthony Cekada in a series of articles written in an attempt to justify the existence of illicit traditionalist groups.  Even though grammatically inaccurate, because of its relative catchiness, it has nonetheless become the universal phrase for those Catholics, who, realizing that the Church requires ordinary jurisdiction for the licit ministration of the offering of Holy Mass, hearing of confessions  (as stated in the Council of Trent), blessing and bestowal of sacramentals and the other facets that promote the Catholic life under the lawful auspices of the Church, refrain from attending any church or chapel; and instead observe their Sunday obligation by reading approved prayers in their home with family, friends, or by themselves.

The Home Aloner, then, basing his belief on the prescriptions and prohibitions found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, Canon Law, and the encyclicals of the Church, takes very seriously the laws of the Catholic Church.  He does not seek to evade them on the pretext of the need for access to the Sacraments or the true Mass, particularly when to receive those sacraments, a justification of sorts must be made which is apart from, and in fact, in contravention to, the letter of the law.

Home Aloners are sometimes confused with another sort:  There are those who while denying Vatican II, refrain from traditionalist groups because they believe these organizations hold to some heretical tenet, real or imagined.  Since the person in question attends no Mass either, but practices Catholicism, he may also be referred to by others as a Home Aloner.   However, usually, this adherent unfortunately denies church teaching on baptism of desire and blood.  This Catholic teaching, described by St. Alphonsus as “de fide“, that is, of the faith, frequently becomes their raison d’ etre, as also to their non-attendance at Mass.  Such persons are generally unconcerned with both the Church’s teaching on ordinary jurisdiction and the canon laws which support this certainty, if they care to learn them at all.  Were a cleric found who subscribed to their theological peculiarities, they would attend his Mass post haste, irrespective of his lack of jurisdiction and canonical mission.

Because this latter group both generally deny the Church’s teaching on baptism of desire and jurisdiction, they are not Home Aloners in the genuine sense.


The Latin word impedimentum signifies directly whatever embarrasses or hinders a person, whatever is an obstacle to his movements, and in this sense the baggage of an army was called impedimenta. Juridical language applies the term to whatever hinders the free action of an agent, or to whatever prevents him from performing, or at least from performing regularly, any act that the law takes cognizance of. The impediment therefore affects directly the juridical capacity of the agent, restrains it, or even entirely suppresses it; indirectly it affects the action itself, which it renders more or less defective or even null. An impediment consequently produces its effect by reason of a defect; it ceases when the agent has legally recovered his capacity, whether that be by a dispensation or by his fulfilling the conditions requisite for the act he wishes to perform. The impediment, in other words, the restriction or suppression of the juridical capacity of the agent, may arise from natural laws from Divine law, or from human law, ecclesiastical or civil; we may, however, point out that certain cases of nullity, certain defects of acts that the law takes cognizance of, are caused by the absence of an essential constitutive element; for example in the case of a contract imposed by force on one of the parties, there would be no impediment unless in a wide improper sense of the term. This general idea of impediments is applicable to all those acts in regard to which the law regulates the juridical capacity of the agents; for instance, acquisition of jurisdiction, contracts in religious matters, the sacraments. Canon law affords a multitude of examples. A layman, a heretic, an excommunicated person is incapable of acquiring spiritual jurisdiction; better known are the restrictions placed on minors, religious, children not yet emancipated, etc., in the matter of making contracts; finally, there are many legal obstacles affecting the capacity of the faithful to receive licitly or even validly, baptism, confirmation, penance, and particularly Holy orders and matrimony.

Canon law uses the word impediment in its restricted and technical sense, only in reference to marriage, while impediments to Holy Orders are spoken of as irregularities (q.v.). We may remark, however, that several real impediments or obstacles to the reception of Holy orders are not called irregularities: thus, women and unbaptized persons, who are by Divine law incapable of being ordained, are not termed irregular. But speaking of matrimony, the word impediment refers to all obstacles, whether arising from natural or Divine law. Another interesting fact is that whereas the word impediment has thus acquired a precise technical meaning in canon law, the cognate words impedire, impediens, impeditus, have preserved their wide grammatical signification and may be applied to other matters; so writers speak of those unable to go personally to Rome to be absolved from censures as impediti adire Romam, and the Constitution “Apost. Sedis” speaks of those who hinder (impedientes) the exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

Impediments to ordination:

In addition to the perpetual impediments called irregularities the, following classes of men are debarred from ordination until the impediment ceases or is dispensed:  sons of non-Catholics so long as their parents remain in error, husbands of wives (never dispensed, ordinarily), those holding an office forbidden to clerics, slaves, those bound to military service, neophytes recently baptized or reconciled, and those labouring under infamy of fact.


It is well to begin by stating the ecclesiological truths that are assumed to be established before the question of infallibility arises. It is assumed: that Christ founded His Church as a visible and perfect society; that He intended it to be absolutely universal and imposed upon all men a solemn obligation actually to belong to it, unless inculpable ignorance should excuse them; that He wished this Church to be one, with a visible corporate unity of faith, government, and worship; and that in order to secure this threefold unity, He bestowed on the Apostles and their legitimate successors in the hierarchy — and on them exclusively — the plenitude of teaching, governing, and liturgical powers with which He wished this Church to be endowed.

And this being assumed, the question that concerns us is whether, and in what way, and to what extent, Christ has made His Church to be infallible in the exercise of her doctrinal authority.

It is only in connection with doctrinal authority as such that, practically speaking, this question of infallibility arises; that is to say, when we speak of the Church’s infallibility we mean, at least primarily and principally, what is sometimes called active as distinguished from passive infallibility. We mean in other words that the Church is infallible in her objective definitive teaching regarding faith and morals, not that believers are infallible in their subjective interpretation of her teaching. This is obvious in the case of individuals, any one of whom may err in his understanding of the Church’s teaching; nor is the general or even unanimous consent of the faithful in believing a distinct and independent organ of infallibility. Such consent indeed, when it can be verified as apart, is of the highest value as a proof of what has been, or may be, defined by the teaching authority, but, except in so far as it is thus the subjective counterpart and complement of objective authoritative teaching, it cannot be said to possess an absolutely decisive dogmatic value. It will be best therefore to confine our attention to active infallibility as such, as by so doing we shall avoid the confusion which is the sole basis of many of the objections that are most persistently and most plausibly urged against the doctrine of ecclesiastical infallibility.

Infallibility must be carefully distinguished both from Inspiration and from Revelation.

Inspiration signifies a special positive Divine influence and assistance by reason of which the human agent is not merely preserved from liability to error but is so guided and controlled that what he says or writes is truly the word of God, that God Himself is the principal author of the inspired utterance; but infallibility merely implies exemption from liability to error. God is not the author of a merely infallible, as He is of an inspired, utterance; the former remains a merely human document.

Revelation, on the other hand, means the making known by God, supernaturally of some truth hitherto unknown, or at least not vouched for by Divine authority; whereas infallibility is concerned with the interpretation and effective safeguarding of truths already revealed. Hence when we say, for example, that some doctrine defined by the pope or by an ecumenical council is infallible, we mean merely that its inerrancy is Divinely guaranteed according to the terms of Christ’s promise to His Church, not that either the pope or the Fathers of the Council are inspired as were the writers of the Bible or that any new revelation is embodied in their teaching.

It is well further to explain:

that infallibility means more than exemption from actual error; it means exemption from the possibility of error; that it does not require holiness of life, much less imply impeccability in its organs; sinful and wicked men may be God’s agents in defining infallibly; and finally that the validity of the Divine guarantee is independent of the fallible arguments upon which a definitive decision may be based, and of the possibly unworthy human motives that in cases of strife may appear to have influenced the result. It is the definitive result itself, and it alone, that is guaranteed to be infallible, not the preliminary stages by which it is reached.

If God bestowed the gift of prophecy on Caiphas who condemned Christ (John 11:49-52; 18:14), surely He may bestow the lesser gift of infallibility even on unworthy human agents. It is, therefore, a mere waste of time for opponents of infallibility to try to create a prejudice against the Catholic claim by pointing out the moral or intellectual shortcomings of popes or councils that have pronounced definitive doctrinal decisions, or to try to show historically that such decisions in certain cases were the seemingly natural and inevitable outcome of existing conditions, moral, intellectual, and political. All that history may be fairly claimed as witnessing to under either of these heads may freely be granted without the substance of the Catholic claim being affected.


A vindictive, canonical penalty by which one is deprived in whole or part of good name, on account of grave moral fault or crime, often accompanied by public disgrace. Both clerics and laics may be subject to infamy. Canonically there are two kinds, infamia juris (infamy of or by law) and infamia facti (infamy of or by fact). Infamy of law is that resulting from an explicit pronouncement of the law, as a penalty for certain crimes, such as apostasy, heresy, schism. Infamy of fact is that arising from crime committed or immoral character, followed by loss of reputation among serious, right-minded Catholics. Canon law enumerates the grave effects of infamy, such as irregularity, disqualification for ecclesiastical office, exclusion from the Holy Eucharist, etc. Infamy of law ceases only by dispensation of the Holy See; infamy of fact, by penance and amendment, causing re-establishment of lost reputation, in the judgment of the bishop.

ipso facto:

Meaning, by the very fact itself.  For our purposes, ipso facto usually refers to the manner in which a sentence or penalty takes place for the commission of an act in violation of divine or ecclesiastical law.  The penalty for joining the Freemasons, for instance is an ipso facto excommunication.  This means that the excommunication takes place by the very fact of joining this condemned organization; there need not be an accusation and trial to determine one’s guilt:  The act itself results in the penalty.  In like manner, the same holds true for the procurement of abortion; consecration without papal mandate; as also a Catholic, who, in a valid marriage, divorces or is divorced by their legitimate spouse and attempts marriage with another while the first spouse is alive.


A canonical impediment directly impeding the reception of tonsure and Holy Orders or preventing the exercise of orders already received. It is called a canonical impediment because introduced by ecclesiastical law, for the canons prescribe certain requisites for the licit reception of orders, e.g. moral probity, proper age, legitimate birth, knowledge proportionate to each order, integrity of body, mind, will, and faith. A defect in these qualities prescribed by church regulations is rightly called an irregularity. The direct effect of an irregularity is twofold: first, it prohibits the reception of orders and, second, prevents an order received from being licitly used. Indirectly it impedes one who has become irregular from obtaining an ecclesiastical benefice.


The right to guide and rule the Church of God.

The Church founded by Christ for the salvation of men needs, like every society, a regulating power (the authority of the Church). This power Christ has bestowed upon it. Directly before His Ascension He gave to the Apostles collectively the commission, and with it the authority, to proclaim his doctrine to all nations, to baptize them, and to teach them to observe all things that He had commanded (Matthew 28:18 sqq.). It may be noted here that the Decree “Lamentabili sane”, of 3 July, 1907, rejects (n. 52 sqq.) the doctrine that Christ did not desire to found a permanent, unchangeable Church endowed with authority. It is customary to speak of a threefold office of the Church: the office of teaching (prophetic office), the priestly office, and the pastoral office (governing office), also, therefore, of the threefold authority of the Church, that is, the teaching authority, ministerial authority, and ruling authority. Since, however, the teaching of the Church is authoritative, the teaching authority is traditionally included in the ruling authority; regularly, therefore, only the ministerial authority and the ruling authority are distinguished. By ministerial authority, which is conferred by an act of consecration, is meant the inward, and, because of its indelible character, permanent capacity to perform acts by which Divine grace is transmitted. By ruling authority, which is conferred by the Church (missio canonica, canonical mission), is understood the authority to guide and rule the Church of God. Jurisdiction, in so far as it covers the relations of man to God, is called jurisdiction of the internal forum or jurisdiction of the forum of Heaven (jurisdictio poli). (See ECCLESIASTICAL FORUM.) This again is either sacramental or penitential, so far as it is used in the Sacrament of Penance, or extra-sacramental, e.g. in granting dispensations from private vows. Jurisdiction, in so far as it regulates external ecclesiastical relations, is called jurisdiction of the external forum, or briefly jurisdictio fori. This jurisdiction, the actual power of ruling is legislative, judicial, or coactive. Jurisdiction can be possessed in varying degrees. It can also be held either for both fora, or for the internal forum only, e.g. by the parish priest. Jurisdiction can be further sub-divided into: ordinary, quasi-ordinary, and delegated jurisdiction. Ordinary jurisdiction is that which is permanently bound, by Divine or human law, with a permanent ecclesiastical office. Its possessor is called an ordinary judge. By Divine law the pope has such ordinary jurisdiction for the entire Church and a bishop for his diocese. By human law this jurisdiction is possessed by the cardinals, officials of the Curia and the congregations of cardinals, the patriarchs, primates, metropolitans, archbishops, the praelati nullius, and prelates with quasi-epsicopal jurisdiction, the chapters of orders, or, respectively, the heads of orders, cathedral chapters in reference to their own affairs, the archdiaconate in the Middle Ages, and parish priests in the internal forum. If, however, jurisdiction is permanently connected with an office, but the office itself is said to be quasi-ordinary, or jurisdictio vicaria. This form of jurisdiction is possessed, for example, by a vicar-general. Temporary exercise of ordinary and quasi-ordinary jurisdiction can be granted, in varying degrees, to another as representative, without conferring on him an office properly so called. In this transient form jurisdiction is called delegated or extraordinary, and concerning it canon law, following the Roman law, has developed exhaustive provisions. This development began when the popes, especially since Alexander III (1159-81), found themselves obliged, by the enormous mass of legal business which came to them from all sides as the “judices ordinarii omnium” to hand over, with proper instruction, a large number of cases to third parties for decision, especially in matters of contentious jurisdiction.

Delegated jurisdiction rests either on a special authorization of the holders of ordinary jurisdiction (delegatio ab homine), or on a general law (delegatio a lege, a jure, a canone). Thus, the Council of Trent transferred a number of papal rights to the bishops “tanquam Apostolicae Sedis delegati”, i.e. also as delegates of the Apostolic See (Sess. VI, De ref., c. ii, iii, etc.), and “etiam tanquam Apostolicae Sedis delegati”, i.e. also as delegates of the Apostolic See (Sess. VI, De ref., c. iv, etc.). In the first class of cases, bishops do not possess ordinary jurisdiction. The meaning of the second expression is disputed, but it is generally taken as purely cumulative. If the delegation applies to one or several designated cases only, it is special delegation. If, however, it applies to an entire class of subjects, it is then general delegation or delegation for the universality of causes. Delegated jurisdiction for the total of a number of matters is known as delegatio mandata. Only those can be appointed delegates who are competent to execute the delegation. For an act of consecration the delegate must have himself the necessary sacred orders. For acts of jurisdiction he must be an ecclesiastic, though the pope could also delegate a layman. Papal delegation is usually conferred only on ecclesiastical dignitaries or canons (c. xi, in VI°, De rescript., I, iii; Council of Trent, Sess. XXV, De ref., c. x). The delegate must be twenty years old, but eighteen years suffices for one appointed by the pope (c. xli, X, De off. jud. deleg., I, xxix). He must also be free from excommunication (c. xxiv, X, De sent. et re jud., II, xxvii). Those placed under the jurisdiction of the delegator must submit to the delegation (c. xxviii, X, De off. jud. deleg., I, xxix). Delegation for one matter can also be conferred upon several. The distinction here to be made is whether they have to act jointly and severally (collegiately), jointly but individually (solidarily), or solidarily at least in some given case (c. xvi, xxi, X, De off. jud. deleg., I, xxix; c. viii, in VI°, h. t. I, xiv). The delegate is to follow exactly his instructions. He is, however, empowered to do all that is necessary to execute them (c. i, c, cii, ciii, xi, xxi, xxvi, xxviii, X, Xe off. jud. deleg., I, xxix). If he exceeds his power, his act is null (c. xxxvii, X, Xe off. jud. deleg., I, xxix). When necessary the delegate can himself delegate, i.e. subdelegate, a qualified person; he can do this especially if he is a papal delegate (c. iii, xxviii, X, De off. jud. deleg., I, xxix), or if he has received permission, or if he has been delegated for a number of cases (Gloss to “Delegatus”, c. lxii, X, De appell., II, xxviii). Since delegation constitutes a new court appeal can be taken from the delegate to the delegator, and in the case of subdelegation to the original delegator (c. xxvii, X, De off. jud. deleg., I, xxix). Delegated jurisdiction expires on the death of the delegate, in case the commission were not issued in view of the permanence of his office, on the loss of office or the death of the delegator, in case the delegate has not acted (re adhuc integra, the matter being still intact), on recall of his authority by the delegator (even re adhuc nondum integra, the matter being no longer intact), on expiration of the allotted time, on settlement of the matter, on declaration of the delegate that he has no power (c. xiv, xix, iv, xxxviii, X, De off. jud. deleg., I, xxix).

(Moderator Comment:  We would encourage the inquirer to read the definition of apostolicity, if not studied already.)


Many Catholics confuse this term, also know as licitness or licitity, with validity.  The two are mutually distinct.  With reference to the Sacraments, validity concerns the confecting of the sacrament:  as an example, if a properly ordained priest pronounces the right words in consecration and has the correct intention, transubstantion takes place.

Liceity concerns the lawfulness of his confecting of the sacrament.  If the priest has been excommunicated, or otherwise suspended from his office, or was never given an office, his confecting of the sacraments are illicit, which is to say, they are done apart from the authority of the Church.

In the present instance, this is a source of sacrilege on the part of the priest confecting the sacraments.  Also, those who receive the sacraments from this priest can be, given the situation, similarly affected.

Sedevacantism (Sedevacantist):

This phrase is a compilation of two Latin words, actually; sede, meaning chair, and vacante, meaning vacant.  The chair referenced, of course, is the Chair of St. Peter, who by Divine commission, is the visible head of the Catholic Church.  An interregnum, the time period between the the death of one pope and the election of another, is a period of sedevacante for the entire Catholic world.  By ecclesiastical edict, no changes are to occur during this time period; the legislative and authoritative acts belonging, properly, to the pope, alone.

For our purposes, sedevacantism refers to the fact that since the death of Pope Pius XII, in 1958, there has been no true and lawful pope in the Catholic Church.  Rather, there has been a succession of anti-popes, bent on eliminating any vestigial images of true Catholicism.

Sedevacantism is most frequently associated with those persons and groups who correctly acknowledge the lack of a Roman Pontiff in the Chair of St. Peter, but who have formed invalid and illicit organizations for the consecrations of bishops; ordinations; and offerings of Holy Mass,  all outside of the juridical and lawful structure that Christ and His popes have established for the entire Catholic Church.

Hence, it is not the concept of sedevacantism in itself which is erroneous: It is, rather, what is alleged to be permissible during this period which is conducted in the name of sedevacantism.  This is to say that even with the long absence of a true pope, the contravention of canon and divine laws is impermissible. That traditionalists (see Traditional Catholicism) use sedevacantism as a justification for the  disallowance of canon law, demonstrates, ironically, their own departure from the True Church, appearances notwithstanding.

Despite this lamentable period of sedevacante, the promises of Christ to always be with His Church are not in vain and have not been voided by the horrible exigencies of our circumstances.  But neither has the obligation to abide by the canon laws, legislative decrees and authoritative acts of true popes in the past.

Stay-at-home Catholics/Catholicism:  see Home Aloner


(Latin tondere, “to shear”)

A sacred rite instituted by the Church by which a baptized and confirmed Christian is received into the clerical order by the shearing of his hair and the investment with the surplice. The person thus tonsured becomes a partaker of the common privileges and obligations of the clerical state and is prepared for the reception of orders. The tonsure itself is not an ordination properly so called, nor a true order. It is rather a simple ascription of a person to the Divine service in such things as are common to all clerics. Historically the tonsure was not in use in the primitive Church during the age of persecution. Even later, St. Jerome (in Ezech., xliv) disapproves of clerics shaving their heads. Indeed, among the Greeks and Romans such a custom was a badge of slavery. On this very account, the shaving of the head was adopted by the monks. Towards the end of the fifth, or beginning of the sixth, century, the custom passed over to the secular clergy.

As a sacred rite, the tonsure was originally joined to the first ordination received, as in the Greek Church it still is to the order of lector. In the Latin Church it began as a separate ceremony about the end of the seventh century, when parents offered their young sons to the service of God. Tonsure is to be given by a candidate’s ordinary, though mitred abbots can bestow it on their own subjects. No special age for its reception is prescribed, but the recipient must have learnt the rudiments of the Faith and be able to read and write. The ceremony may be performed at any time or place. As to the monastic tonsure, some writers have distinguished three kinds: (1) the Roman, or that of St. Peter, when all the head is shaved except a circle, of hair; (2) the Eastern, or St. Paul’s, when the entire head is denuded of hair; (3) the Celtic, or St. John’s, when only a crescent of hair is shaved from the front of the head. In Britain, the Saxon opponents of the Celtic tonsure called it the tonsure of Simon Magus. According to canon law, all clerics are bound to wear the tonsure under certain penalties. But on this subject, Taunton (loc. cit. inf.) says: “In English-speaking countries, from a custom arising in the days of persecution and having a prescription of over three centuries, the shaving of the head, the priestly crown, seems, with the tacit consent of the Holy See, to have passed out of use. No provincial or national council has ordered it, even when treating of clerical dress; and the Holy See has not inserted the law when correcting the decrees of those councils.”

Traditional Catholic(ism):

In practice, the term traditional Catholicism or the pronoun Traditional (or Traditonalist) Catholic, has a broader application than many might realize.  For our purposes, the phrase simply refers to all those who claim to maintain the Catholic faith as was believed and practiced in the days prior to the Second Vatican Council, held between 1962-65. This includes all varieties of this term including sede occupantists, sede vacantists, conclavists, the materialiter/formaliter crowd, the Feeneyites, the Pope St. Pius X Society, St. Pius V Society, Fraternity of St. Peter, CMRI, Holy Family Monastery, devotees of “Bp.” Vezelis and all other Traditionalist “bishops,” and so forth. The term does not, however, refer to stay-at-home Catholics.

Traditional Catholics are most commonly distinguished by their adherence to the Latin Mass, sometimes referred to by outsiders as “Tridentine”.  In actuality, this is a misnomer; the erroneous implication being that the Council of Trent somehow “created” the true, Catholic Mass.  It did no such thing.  More accurately, the venerable Council codified the rubrics employed in offering this Mass for Catholics of the Roman (or Latin) Rite.  Prior to this period, although the Mass was essentially the same throughout the entire world, there were nonetheless some local and national variations. It was these differences that the Council addressed, corrected, and ultimately unified.

While anyone with a true Catholic instinct observes that what has taken place in the name of the Church since and because of Vatican II is patently un-Catholic, anti-Catholic, even, it is the heretical reaction to the Council from Traditionalists that this website seeks to address.

In this regard, many tomes have been written by traditional Catholics, sometimes admirably so, against the novelties of Vatican II.  However, traditional Catholics have become a “law unto themselves,” both denying and controverting Divine and ecclesiastical laws regarding, among other errors, jurisidiction and canonical mission, even going so far as to deny the universality of these prohibitions.

The significance of these errors cannot be overstated.  Essentially, it places such adherents outside the Church, while maintaining a dangerous facade as standard bearerers of the true Faith.  While it is certain that no true Pope has reigned since the death of Pope Pius XII, Catholics may not thereby arbitrarily dismiss canons and decrees regarding the impermissibility of consecrations of bishops without a papal mandate; necessity of jurisdiction for valid absolution in the confessional; and apostolicity of mission.  Not incidentally, this latter is one of the Four Marks of the Catholic Faith.  Hence, they are necessarily constitutive of the Church’s identity and indefectibility, this latter being one of three attributes of the Church.

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