The Forum

The Forum

Dear Brother,

I would like to amplify the thoughts we have exchanged regarding the use of the expression “vicar of Christ” when referring to the Holy Spirit, bearing in mind that we must guard against any exposition or expression that would imply anything less than His oneness and equality with Jesus Christ. From the Encyclopedia Britannica I quote the following excerpts regarding the historical and technical use of the word “vicar.” VICAR. A title, more especially ecclesiastical, describing various officials acting in some special way FOR A SUPERIOR. Cicero used the word “vicarius” to describe an under-slave kept by another slave as part of his private property.

In the middle ages it remained a title of secular officials appointed by the emperor to judge cases in distant lands or to exercise authority in certain districts. It was also applied to representatives of a court administering justice in small towns and dealing with unimportant cases, levying taxes, etc. Monasteries often EMPLOYED a vicar to answer to their Feudal Lords in matters pertaining to certain holdings.

The title “Vicar of Jesus Christ” borne by popes was introduced during the 8th century.

All bishops were looked upon in some sort as vicars of the pope, but the title came especially to describe papal legates to whom in certain places the pope DELEGATED A PORTION of his authority. Pope Benedict XIV tells that the popes often named “vicars-apostolic” for the government of a particular diocese when the episcopal see was vacant, or, being filled, the titular bishop could not fulfill his functions.

The Roman Catholic Church in England was governed by “vicars-apostolic” from 1685 to 1850 when Pius IX re-established the hierarchy.

It early became a custom for the prebendaries and canons of a cathedral to employ “priest-vicars” or “vicars-choral” as their SUBSTITUTES when it was their turn to sing High Mass and conduct services. The incumbent of a parish where the tithes are empropriate (in the hands of a layman for disbursement) is entitled vicar.

In the Anglican Church vicars-general are EMPLOYED by the Archbishop of Canterbury and some other bishops TO ASSIST in such matters as ecclesiastical visitation.

In the Roman Catholic Church bishops sometimes appoint lesser vicars to exercise a more limited authority over a limited district. They are entrusted with the surveillance of the parish priests and the other priests of their district, and with matters of discipline. They are charged with the care of sick priests and in case of death, with the celebration of their funerals and the care of their vacant parishes.

In canon law priests doing work in the place of parish priests are called vicars. Thus, in France the head priest in a parish church is assisted by several “vicaires”.

N.B. The emphasized words are mine.

In light of the above I judge that the title “vicar” does not ascribe to the Holy Spirit His, essential and absolute Deity.

Sincerely J. B.