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
A human life is a story told by God. - Hans Christian Andersen

Doubtful prayer is no prayer at all. - John Calvin

The prospects are bright as the promises of God. - Adoniram Judson

I should not believe in a God who does not dance. - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. - Saint Augustine

I am an expert in Higher Level Math: You + God = Enough - Zig Ziglar

The heart that is generous and kind most resembles God. - Robert Burns

Now if we only knew why, we would have the mind of God. - Stephen Hawking

Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words. - St. Francis of Assisi

A man who is intimate with God is not intimidated by man. - Leonard Ravenhill

I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time. - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

There is nothing more important than appearing to be religious. - Niccolo Machiavelli

God does not require we be successful, only that we be faithful. - Mother Teresa

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

It is not our long prayers but our believing God that gets the answer. - John G. Lake

God's mercy and grace give me hope - for myself, and for our world. - Billy Graham

If there's one thing I know, it's that God does love a good joe-k. - Hugh Elliott

The preacher who can't broaden or deepen his sermons usually lengthens them. - Unknown

I am totally convinced the Christian faith is the most coherent worldview around. - Ravi Zacharias

I've read the last page of the Bible. It's all going to turn out all right. - Billy Graham

There's a difference between an intellectual faith and a personal, heart faith. - Billy Graham

There is forgiveness for those who seek God. And I believe in the power of redemption. - Rick Perry

The goal was scored a little bit by the hand of God, another bit by the head of Maradona. - Diego Maradona

The devil will let a preacher prepare a sermon if it will keep him from preparing himself. - Vance Havner

Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the window which hope has opened. - Charles H Spurgeon

Most religious people accept medicine as a gift from God and reap the benefits of both realms. - Caroline Fraser

If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank. - Woody Allen

When you come to religion, you come to a place. When you come to Jesus Christ, you come to a person. - Ravi Zacharias

If you're unable to find your face in the dictionary, then take this opportunity to define yourself. - Faydra D. Fields

If you really believe in the message you're preaching, you want as many people as possible to listen. - Mark Batterson

We cannot embrace God's forgiveness if we are so busy clinging to past wounds and nursing old grudges. - T D Jakes

The longer you are on this journey of faith and understanding, you actually realize how little you do know. - Ravi Zacharias

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

God writes a lot of comedy... the trouble is, he's stuck with so many bad actors who don't know how to play funny. - Garrison Keillor

Prayer gives a man the opportunity of getting to know a gentleman he hardly ever meets. I do not mean his maker, but himself. - William R Inge

I find that the nicest and best people generally profess no religion at all, but are ready to like the best men of all religions. - Samuel Butler

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei

God is dead: but considering the state the species Man is in, there will perhaps be caves, for ages yet, in which his shadow will be shown. - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

God is on the lookout today for a man who will be quiet enough to get a message from Him, brave enough to preach it, and honest enough to live it. - Vance Havner

What is a prayer? Prayer is sending blessing to all. Prayer is sending your compassion to all. Prayer is creating an antidote of negative thoughts. - Osho


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!
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10-Aug-2022