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Pope Pius XI, depicted in this window at Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu, was ordinary of the universal Catholic Church and local ordinary of Rome. At the same time, Bishop Stephen Alencastre, Apostolic Vicar of the Sandwich Islands, was the local ordinary of Hawaii.

In those hierarchically organised churches of Western Christianity which have an ecclesiastical law system, an ordinary is an officer of the church who by reason of office has ordinary power to execute the church's laws.[1] The term comes from the Latin word ordinarius.

In Eastern Christianity, a corresponding officer is called a hierarch[2], which comes from the Greek word ἱεράρχης (hierarchēs) meaning " president of sacred rites, high-priest"[3] and that from "ἱερεύς" (hiereus), "priest"[4] + "ἀρχή" (archē), amongst others "first place or power, rule".[5] In common usage in the Episcopal Church, an ordinary is a diocesan bishop.


Ordinary power

In canon law, the power to govern the church is divided into the power to make laws (legislative), enforce the laws (executive), and to judge based on the law (judicial).[6] A person exercises power to govern either because the person holds an office to which the law grants governing power or because someone with governing power has delegated it to the person. Ordinary power is the former, while the latter is delegated power.[7] The office with ordinary power could possess the governing power itself (proper ordinary power) or instead it could have the ordinary power of agency, the inherent power to exercise someone else's power (vicarious ordinary power).[8]

The law vesting ordinary power could either be ecclesiastical law, i.e. the positive enactments that the church has established for itself, or divine law, i.e. the laws which the church believes were given to it by God[9]. As an example of divinely instituted ordinaries, Roman Catholics believe that when Jesus established the Church he in turn established the episcopate and the Primacy of Simon Peter and endowed the offices with power to rule the Church[10]. Thus, in the Roman Catholic Church, the office of successor of Simon Peter and the office of diocesan bishop possess their ordinary power even in the absence of positive enactments from the Church.

Many officers possess ordinary power but, due to their lack of ordinary executive power, are not called ordinaries. The best example of this phenomenon is the office of judicial vicar, a.k.a. officialis. The judicial vicar only has authority through his office to exercise the diocesan bishop's power to judge cases[11]. Though the vicar has vicarious ordinary judicial power, he is not an ordinary because he lacks ordinary executive power. A vicar general, however, has authority through his office to exercise the diocesan bishop's executive power.[12] He is therefore an ordinary because of this vicarious ordinary executive power.

Catholic usage


Local ordinaries/hierarchs

Local ordinaries exercise ordinary power and are ordinaries in particular churches[13]. The following clerics are local ordinaries:

Other ordinaries/hierarchs

There are other clerics who are also ordinaries (Latin Church) or hierarchs (Eastern Churches), but are not local ordinaries (Latin Church) or local hierarchs (Eastern Churches):

Orthodox Christianity

File:Russian Orthodox Episcopal
Consecration of a Bishop, by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexius II (left) and other bishops.

In the Orthodox Church, a hierarch (ruling bishop) holds uncontested authority within the boundaries of his own diocese; no other bishop may perform any sacerdotal functions without the ruling bishop's express invitation. The violation of this rule is called eispēdēsis (Greek: εἰσπήδησις, "trespassing", literally "jumping in"), and is uncanonical. Ultimately, all bishops in the Church are equal, regardless of any title they may enjoy (Patriarch, Metropolitan, Archbishop, etc.). The role of the bishop in the Orthodox Church is both hierarchical and sacramental.[16]

This pattern of governance dates back to the earliest centuries of Christianity, as witnessed by the writings of Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 100 AD):
The bishop in each Church presides in the place of God.... Let no one do any of the things which concern the Church without the bishop.... Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
And it is the bishop's primary and distinctive task to celebrate the Eucharist, "the medicine of immortality."[17][18] Saint Cyprian of Carthage (258 AD) wrote:
The episcopate is a single whole, in which each bishop enjoys full possession. So is the Church a single whole, though it spreads far and wide into a multitude of churches and its fertility increases.[19]
Bishop Kallistos (Ware) wrote:
There are many churches, but only One Church; many episcopi but only one episcopate."[20]
In Orthodox Christianity, the church is not seen as a monolithic, centralized institution, but rather as existing in its fullness in each local body. The church is defined Eucharistically:
in each particular community gathered around its bishop; and at every local celebration of the Eucharist it is the whole Christ who is present, not just a part of Him. Therefore, each local community, as it celebrates the Eucharist ... is the church in its fullness."[21]
This is not to say that the Orthodox Church has a Congregationalist polity; on the contrary, the local priest functions as the "hands" of the bishop, and must receive from the bishop an antimension and chrism before he is permitted to celebrate any of the Sacred Mysteries (sacraments) within the diocese.

An Orthodox bishop's authority comes from his election and consecration. He is, however, subject to the Sacred Canons of the Orthodox Church, and answers to the Synod of Bishops to which he belongs. In case an Orthodox bishop is overruled by his local synod, he retains the right of appeal (Greek: Ἔκκλητον, Ékklēton) to his ecclesiastical superior (e.g. a Patriarch) and his synod.

See also


  1. ^ c. 134 § 1, Code of Canon Law, 1983
  2. ^ c. 984, Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, 1992
  3. ^ ἱεράρχης, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  4. ^ ἱερεύς, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  5. ^ ἀρχή, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  6. ^ c. 135 §1, Code of Canon Law, 1983
  7. ^ Id. c. 131 §1
  8. ^ Id. § 2
  9. ^ "Ordinary," The Catholic Encyclopedia
  10. ^ See Lumen gentium and Pastor aeternus
  11. ^ c. 1420 § 1, Code of Canon Law (1983)
  12. ^ Id. c. 479 § 1
  13. ^ Id.c.134 §§1–2
  14. ^ "Canon 134, §1 and §2". 1983 Code of Canon Law. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  15. ^ "Canon 134, §2". 1983 Code of Canon Law. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  16. ^ Ware, Timothy (1964), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator The Orthodox Church], London: Penguin Books, p. 21, ISBN 0-14-020592-6 
  17. ^ Ibid.
  18. ^ Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians, VI:1; Epistle to the Smyrneans, VIII:1 and 2; Epistle to the Ephesians, XX:2.
  19. ^ Cyprian of Carthage, On the Unity of the Church, V.
  20. ^ Ware, op. cit., p. 22
  21. ^ Ware, op. cit., p. 21


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Most common English words: shook « fit « distribute « #946: ordinary » forms » complete » access


From Anglo-Norman ordenaire, ordenarie etc., from Latin ōrdinārius (regular, orderly), from ōrdō (order).



ordinary (comparative more ordinary, superlative most ordinary)


more ordinary

most ordinary

  1. (law) Having regular jurisdiction (of a judge; now only used in certain phrases).
  2. Being part of the natural order of things; normal, customary, routine.
  3. Having no special characteristics or function; everyday, common, mundane (often deprecatory).
  4. (Australian, New Zealand) (informal) bad or undesirable.


Derived terms





ordinary (plural ordinaries)

  1. (obsolete) A devotional manual.
  2. (Christianity) A rule, or book of rules, prescribing the order of service, especially of Mass.
  3. A person having immediate jurisdiction in a given case of ecclesiastical law, such as the bishop within a diocese.
  4. (obsolete) A set portion of food, later as available for a fixed price at an inn or other eating establishment.
  5. (archaic or historical) A place where such meals are served; a public tavern, inn.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, Folio Society 1973, p. 1:
      it hath been usual with the honest and well-meaning host to provide a bill of fare which all persons may peruse at their first entrance into the house; and having thence acquainted themselves with the entertainment which they may expect, may either stay and regale with what is provided for them, or may depart to some other ordinary better accommodated to their taste.
  6. (heraldry) One of the standard geometric designs placed across the center of a coat of arms, such as a pale or fess.
  7. An ordinary thing or person.
  8. (historical) A penny-farthing bicycle.



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