Vatican Vocabulary

from “A Dark History: The Popes” by Brenda Lewis (2009)

Catholic Glossary - Becoming a Roman Catholic


Anathema
Anathema was the name given to a Church decree excommunicating an individual or denouncing an unacceptable doctrine. As a punishment, however, anathema went beyond excommunication. In the New Testament, there is a reference in Corinthians that says, ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.’ In Galatians, anathema is named as the punishment for preaching a rival gospel: But even if we, or an angel from Heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to anathema.
The book of John went even further:
“He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you that bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

Excommunication
Excommunication means putting a man or woman outside the Christian communion. It was the worst punishment an individual could incur, for it cut them off from the protection of the Church and from contact with Church life. Among other crimes, the punishment could be incurred for committing apostasy (abandoning Christian beliefs), heresy, schism (division within the Church), attacking the pope personally or procuring an abortion. Anyone who ordained a female priest was also subject to excommunication. In medieval times, the Catholic Church regarded excommunication as either vitandus (to be avoided or shunned), or toleratus (meaning they could have social or business relationships with other Catholics). They were allowed to attend Mass, but could not receive communion, the ceremony celebrating the Last Supper. The ceremony of excommunication was both dramatic and daunting. A bell was tolled as if the excommunicant had died, the book of the gospels was closed and a candle was snuffed out. However, excommunication was not necessarily permanent. If the guilty parties made a statement of repentance, they could be restored to full membership of the Church.

Interdict
The excommunication of a town, city or other district, even entire countries, was called being ‘placed under interdict’. In practice, this meant that no Christian marriages, funerals or Church services could take place as long as the interdict remained in force, although the population involved were allowed to make confession and receive baptism. If a country placed under interdict came under attack, the pope was under no obligation to come to its assistance. In addition, an interdict released the subjects from their oaths of loyalty to the offending ruler, which allowed them to rebel against him with impunity, if they wished. Kings, emperors or other rulers whose behaviour had offended the Catholic Church usually incurred this blanket form of excommunication. The ruler in question had to repent before the penalty could be lifted and the country could be restored to the Catholic communion. This, for instance, is what happened in 1207 when King John of England refused to accept Cardinal Stephen Langton, the Pope’s choice for Archbishop of Canterbury. John was excommunicated and England was placed under interdict until 1212, when the King at last gave in and agreed to Langton’s appointment. After that, the interdict was withdrawn.

Limbo and Purgatory
Although Limbo in not an official feature of the Roman Catholic religion, it is connected to it. The word is taken from the Latin limbus, meaning edge, and describes a condition experienced in the afterlife by people who die in original sin, but have not been assigned to Gehenna, the Hell of the damned. Purgatory is frequently taken to describe a place of fearful suffering where the souls of sinners atone for their wrongdoings and undergo terrible punishments. In fact, the Catholic Church views purgatory in a much more optimistic light, as a situation where souls of those who die in a state of grace are purified and given temporary punishment, where appropriate. The process prepares them to go to Heaven. Buying an indulgence during life could lessen the length of time a sinner had to spend in limbo or purgatory before their soul was allowed to go to heaven in the afterlife.

Nepotism
Nepotism derives from the Latin word nepos, meaning nephew or grandchild, and describes the favouritism many popes showed toward their relatives and friends by giving them high positions in the Church they did not merit, either through ability or seniority. It was probably the most common of Church crimes, particularly in medieval times. However, nepotism was almost understandable at a time when popes had personal rivals and enemies and needed people close to them who had already proved their loyalty.

Papal Bull
A papal bull is a pronouncement, charter or decree issued by a pope, usually for public consumption. The contents of papal bulls may be news of a bishop’s appointment, the canonization of a new saint, the announcement of excommunications or forthcoming Vatican Council. The bull takes its name from the bulla (seal) attached to the document, which is most often made of metal, but might also be made of lead or, for very solemn occasions, of gold.

Papal Infallibility
The Catholic dogma of Papal Infallibility which was established by the First Vatican Council on 18 July 1870 declares that the Holy Spirit actively preserves the pope from even the chance that he will make an error when promulgating statements on faith or morals. These statements derive from divine revelation or are at least, connected to divine revelation. In order to be accounted infallible, the pope’s teachings have to be based on sacred tradition and sacred scripture, or should, at least, not contradict either of them. However, Papal Infallibility does not suggest that the pope is incapable of sin or wrongdoing. Since the doctrine was introduced (138 years ago), it has been used only once. In 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary as an article of faith in the Roman Catholic religion. It has, therefore, been ‘assumed’ that after her death, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was transported to Heaven with both her body and her soul intact. Apart from this single use of infallibility, the Church relies on the idea that the pope decides what will, and will not, be acceptable as a formal belief in the Roman Catholic religion.

Papal Legate
A papal legate was a personal representative of the pope, a post usually given to a cardinal. Legate were sent to foreign governments, monarchs or churches outside the Vatican with the pope’s instructions to take charge of important Catholic events, such as an ecumenical council or to make decisions on matters of faith. Papal legates might also take charge where there were problems with heresy, as they did during the struggle between the papacy and the heretic Cathars in Languedoc.

Papal or Apostolic Nuncio
‘Nuncio’ derives from the Latin nuntius, meaning ‘envoy’. A papal nuncio, officially known as apostolic nuncio, is an ambassador who acts as the diplomatic representative of the Vatican to foreign states or to international organizations, such as the United Nations. The nuncio has the same rank and privileges of an ambassador from any other state and usually holds the rank of archbishop for as long as he remains in the post. (Until such time as the Roman Catholic Church ordains women, all papal nuncios will be male.)

Simony
Simony, the crime of selling or paying for Church offices or positions or offering payment to influence an appointment, was a serious crime within the Church. It took its name from Simon Magus, also known as Simon the Sorcerer, who attempted to bribe the disciples Peter and John. As the New Testament recounts:
And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying ‘Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.’ But Peter said unto him, ‘Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.’

The Index of Prohibited Books
The Index of Prohibited Books or Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a list containing works banned for Catholic readers by the Church. Prohibited books could contain a variety of ‘errors’, including heresy, immortality, explicit sex or other subjects that were deemed contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. The first index was published, no in Rome, but in the Netherlands in 1529. Subsequent printings appeared in Venice in 1543 and Paris in 1551. In 1571, a special body was set up to investigate books that might need to be censored. Named the Sacred Congregation of the Index, its task also included updating the books already on the index and labelling others as possibilities for publication if alterations were made. These were described as donec corrigatur (forbidden if not corrected) or donec expurgetur (forbidden if not purged). Lists of corrections - some of them very long - were made for the authors as means of making their work more acceptable. The Congregation was disbanded in 1917 and the index itself was no longer published after 1966.


QuotaBills
Woman was God's second mistake. - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

He was a wise man who invented God. - Plato

God has always been hard on the poor. - Jean Paul Marat

Religions change; beer and wine remain. - Hervey Allen

By night an atheist half believes in God. - Edward Young

The atheist religion don't believe in the bible. - Archie Bunker

If God wanted us to fly, He would have given us tickets. - Mel Brooks

He has all the characteristics of a god - except loyalty. - Sam Houston

An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching. - Mahatma Gandhi

What is faith unless it is to believe what you do not see? - St. Augustine

If a word in the dictionary were mispelled, how would we know? - Steven Wright

Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible. - Mary McLeod Bethune

I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best. - Walt Whitman

The folks in Mississippi are saying, 'Thank God for Texas.' - Kinky Friedman

Man - a creature created at the end of a work week when God was tired. - Mark Twain

A pretty good test of a man's religion is how it affects his pocketbook. - Francis James Grimke

Cocaine is God’s way of telling you you’re making too much money. - Robin Williams

Italy is the home of art and swindling; home of religion and moral rottenness. - Mark Twain

God gave us the gift of lie; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. - Voltaire

Only priests and fools are fearless and I've never been on the best of terms with God. - Patrick Rothfuss

may I be I is the only prayer - not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong. - e e cummings

Are you saying that the Rebel Alliance were religious terrorists and Yoda was a benefit cheat? - Dave Turner

God puts you on the runway and takes you off the runway. What you do on the runway is up to you. - Unknown

Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be thankful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful. - Harvey Mackay

I know why the sun never sets on the British Empire: God wouldn't trust an Englishman in the dark. - Duncan Spaeth

The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty. - Zig Ziglar

I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls in to line. - Lucille Ball

The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum. - Havelock Ellis

The Muslim world is threatened by religious fanaticism. The Western world is threatened by secular fanaticism. - Dennis Prager

Let nothing disturb thee,
Let nothing affright thee,
All things are passing,
God changeth never. - Teresa of Ávila

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. - Mark 10:25

Humor must not professedly teach and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever. - Mark Twain

The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad.
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad. - G K Chesterton

None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith. - Paulo Coelho

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith. - Franklin D Roosevelt

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28

If I'm losing balance in a pose, I stretch higher and God reaches down to steady me. It works every time, and not just in yoga. - T. Guillemets

You know that ISIS wants to go in and take over the Vatican? You have heard that. You know, that's a dream of theirs, to go into Italy. - Donald Trump

I ain't got no respect for no religion where the head guy claims he can't make no mistakes. Like he's, waddya call, inflammable. - Archie Bunker

It's all nonsense. It's only nonsense. I'm not afraid of the rain. I am not afraid of the rain. Oh, oh, God, I wish I wasn't. - Ernest Hemingway


see also   History  &  Religious  Sections
Behind The Scenes Pope Election
Bible Reference
Can’t Get Rid of the Old Pope Smell
Cardinals Select New Pope
Deciding The Next Pope
Ex-Benedict
If I Could Do It, So Can You!
List of Catholic Popes
Pope Woody
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25-Apr-2019