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The administrator of a vacant diocese, elected by a cathedral chapter. On the death of a bishop, the canons of a cathedral chapter (where such exists) inherit the episcopal jurisdiction as a body corporate. Within eight days of the vacancy of the see, however, they must meet and constitute a vicar capitular (Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV, c. xvi, de ref.). If they neglect this duty, the right passes to the metropolitan, or, in case the metropolitan see is in question, to the senior suffragan bishop, or, when the diocese is exempt, to the nearest bishop. In constituting a vicar capitular, a strict form of election need not be followed; but if suffrages are cast, they should be secret, and no one may vote for himself. The vicar chosen should be a doctor of licentiate in canon law if possible, and though a canon is commonly to be chosen yet this is not required for validity.
On his election the vicar succeeds to all the ordinary episcopal jurisdiction that the chapter had inherited, nor can the chapter reserve any part of the jurisdiction to itself, nor constitute only a temporary vicar, nor remove him. Faculties which are committed to bishops by the Holy See for a term of years, pass also to the vicar capitular (S. Off., 22 Apr., 1898), in which are included the powers usually granted for dealing with a certain number of cases (S. Off., 3 May, 1899). Canonists usually hold that perpetual delegations to ordinaries, sanctioned by the Council of Trent, pass likewise to the vicar capitular. Faculties, however, which had been granted to the bishop personally are not extended to the vicar. There are, nevertheless, some limitations on the power of a vicar capitular, even as regards ordinary episcopal jurisdiction. Thus, he may not convoke a synod or visit the diocese unless a year has elapsed since these offices were performed. He may not grant indulgences. He should not undertake any new work or engagements that might prejudice the action of the in-coming bishop. Hence, during the first year of vacancy, he can promote to sacred orders only those who are obliged to receive that dignity through possession of a benefice. The vicar cannot grant the benefices of free collation, nor may he suppress them and unite them to the cathedral chapter. He may not alienate the goods of the cathedral church or of the episcopal mensa. He can, however, grant permission for the alienation of the goods of inferior churches. He can neither begin nor pursue a judicial process concerning the goods or rights of the cathedral church. The vicar cannot give permission for the erection of a new monastery or a new confraternity (S.C. Ind., 23 Nov., 1878). Canonists usually declare that a vicar capitula can receive extern clerics into his diocese, but deny that he can excardinate the home clergy. If the vicar is in episcopal orders, he can perform all that belongs to the ministry of consecration; otherwise he may invite a bishop from another diocese to exercise such functions. If the vicar die or resign, the chapter must elect another within eight days, but the newly-elect must not be one who has already received the nomination to the vacant see. In case the removal of the vicar capitular becomes necessary, this may be done only by the Holy See. The office of a vicar capitular ceases when the bishop who has been promoted to the diocese presents his letters of appointment to his cathedral chapter. The new bishop has the right of demanding an account from the chapter and vicar capitular of all their acts of administration, and of punishing any dereliction of duty.
LAURENTIUS, Institutiones juris ecclesiastici (Fribourg, 1903); TAUNTON, The Law of the Church (London, 1906), s.v.; WERNZ, Jus decretalium, II (Rome, 1899); FERRARIS, Bibliotheca canonica, VII (Rome, 1891), s.v.
WILLIAM H. W. FANNING