Judicial vicar

Judicial vicar

In the Roman Catholic Church, a judicial vicar is an officer of the diocese who has ordinary power to judge cases in the diocesan ecclesiastical court. Although the diocesan bishop can reserve certain cases to himself, the judicial vicar and the diocesan bishop are a single tribunal, which means that decisions of the judicial vicar cannot be appealed to the diocesan bishop but must instead be appealed to the appellate tribunal. The judicial vicar (or “officialis”) ought to be someone other than the vicar general, unless the smallness of the diocese or the limited number of cases suggest otherwise (canon 1420 §1). Other judges assist the judicial vicar either by deciding cases on a single judge basis or by forming with him a panel over which he or one of them presides. A judicial vicar may also be assisted by adjutant judicial vicars (or “vice-officiales”).

Judicial vicars, adjutants, and other judges who preside in cases must be priests of good repute, must be at least thirty years old, and must hold a doctorate or licentiate in canon law (canon 1420 §4).

Judicial vicars are to serve for a specific term of office (canon 1422) and, unlike vicars general and episcopal vicars, do not cease from office when the diocese is without a bishop (canon 1420 §5), either through the bishop’s death, resignation (having been accepted by the Roman Pontiff), transfer, or privation of office (having been made known to the bishop).

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