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A prelate who exercises quasi-episcopal jurisdiction in a territory not comprised in any diocese. The origin of such prelates must necessarily be sought in the Apostolic privileges, for only he whose authority is superior to that of bishops can grant an exemption from episcopal jurisdiction. Such exemption, therefore, comes only from the pope. The rights of prelates nullius are quasi-episcopal, and these dignitaries are supposed to have any power that a bishop has, unless it is expressly denied to them by canonical law. When they have not received episcopal consecration, such prelates may not confer sacred orders, but they have the privilege (if they are abbots and priests) of advancing candidates to tonsure and minor orders. If not consecrated episcopally, they have not the power to exercise those functions of consecrating oils, etc., which are referred to the episcopal order only analogously. Prelates nullius may take cognizance of matrimonial causes within the same limits as a bishop; they may dispense from the proclamation of matrimonial banns, grant faculties for hearing confessions and preaching, reserve certain cases to themselves, publish indulgences and jubilees, exercise full jurisdiction over the enclosure of nuns, and invite any bishop to confirm in their quasi-diocese. These prelates may not, however, without special permission of the Holy See, convoke a synod or institute synodal examiners. Neither may they confer parochial benefices. They are not allowed to grant indulgences, or absolve from the reserved cases and secret irregularities whose absolution is restricted to the pope ordinarily, but allowed to bishops by the Council of Trent; nor promote secular clerics to orders, nor grant dimissorial letters for ordination, nor exercise jurisdiction over regulars as Apostolic delegates. Prelates nullius are, however, bound to residence, to preach the Word of God, to offer up Mass for their people, to make the visit ad limina, and in concurrence with the neighbouring bishop to make a visitation of their quasi-diocese. The only prelate nullius in the United States is the Abbot of Maryhelp, Belmont, North Carolina. (See Abbot.)
SANGUINETTI, Juris Ecclesiasticae Institutiones (Rome, 1896); TAUNTON, The Law of the Church (London, 1906), s.v. Prelates.
WILLIAM H.W. FANNING
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