words all catholics should know
Compiled by Dr. Regis Martin, STD
Abjuration - In Church law, the formal renunciation of apostasy, heresy, or schism.
Ablution - Liturgical washing with water. E.g., pouring of water over one's head at baptism, ritual washing of the thumbs and index fingers of the priest at Mass. (Etym. Latin ablutio, a washing away or cleansing; a spiritual cleaning.)
Abnegation - Self-denial. Voluntarily depriving oneself of some licit or even laudable experience that is pleasant, as an act of sacrifice to God. (Etym. Latin abnegare, to deny.)
Abomination of Desolation - The omen of future calamity, predicted by the prophet Daniel and referred to by Christ (Dan. 9:27, Mat 24: 15). Daniel seems to be foretelling the erection of a statue of Zeus in the Temple of Jerusalem in 168 B.C. Christ applied the prophecy to the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, as a sign for the Christians to flee Jerusalem.
Abortion - When direct or induced, any destruction of the child before or after implantation in the womb; the essential sinfulness of which consists in the homicidal intent to kill innocent life. Condemned by the Church since apostolic times: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, composed before A.D. 100: "You shall not procure abortion. You shall not destroy a new-born child." (II, 2) Both abortion and infanticide were from the beginning placed on the same level of malice.
Absolute - That which is independent or not related to anything else; or that which is total and complete in itself. God is the Absolute inasmuch as He remains entirely and eternally independent of all creation for either His existence of His perfections, to wit, the Being who cannot not be.
Absolution - In the sacrament of penance, the act by which a priest, having necessary jurisdiction, remits the guilt and penalty due to sin. (Etym. Latin absolvere, to free from; to absolve, acquit.)
Abstraction - A mental act by which the mind attends to one aspect of a thing without attending to other aspects naturally present in the same object. By means of abstraction the human reason concludes to God's existence and His attributes of infinite wisdom, goodness, and power; an underlying principle, therefore, of natural theology.
Absurdist - One who positively affirms the absence of purpose in human existence; denying God's existence, he sees no finality at work in the world and reduces all events, including man's deepest thoughts and affections, to a blank irrationality.
Accident - That which is not of the essence of something; a category of being whose nature is not to exist in itself but in another thing. Of the nine categories of accident identified by Aristotle, relation, quality, and quantity are the most important. (Etym. Latin accidens, a happening; something that is added; chance; nonessential quality; from accidere, to come to pass, happen, befall.)
Accidie - (acedia) One of the seven capital sins. Sloth as a state of mind that finds the practice of virtue not worth the trouble. Sadness in the face of spiritual good.
Acculturation - The process or fact of accommodating religious belief and.practice to the dominant culture of a society. Good if faith is thus able to more effectively transform the culture; bad when faith is so attenuated as to effectively disappear.
A Cruce Salus - Salvation comes from the Cross. Christ having redeemed the world by His cross, so are the faithful redeemed by patiently bearing their cross.
Acts of Man - Any action performed by a human being lacking reflective and free consent, e.g., digestion, circulation of blood.
Actual Grace - Temporary supernatural intervention by God to enlighten the mind or strengthen the will to perform supernatural actions that lead to heaven. Any transient divine assistance enabling man to obtain, retain, or grow in the life of God.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam - For the greater glory of God, abbreviated A.M.D.G. The motto for the Society of Jesus.
Adoption, Supernatural - The act of God's goodness by which He takes us as His own children to make us heirs to the happiness of heaven.
Adoration - The act of religion by which God is recognized as alone worthy of supreme honor because He is infinitely perfect, has supreme dominion over humans, and the right to total dependence on the Creator. At once an act of mind and will expressing itself in prayers, postures of praise, and acts of reverence and sacrifice.
Aggiornamento Updating - . The term entered common usage under Pope John XXIII, containing two distinct meanings: internal spiritual renewal, and external adaptation of Church law and institution to the times.
Agnosticism - The theory that either knowledge or certitude about ultimates is impossible.
Albigensianism - Modified form of the Manichaean heresy that flourished in Southern France in12th and 13th centuries, holding that a good deity created the world of spirit and an evil god that of matter, including the human body, which is under its control. Christ was sent to deliver souls from their imprisonment Albigensians favored suicide and advocated abstaining from marriage. A crusade was organized against them as a menace to society.
Allegorical Sense - Form of biblical interpretation in which an actual accomplished fact becomes a figure for something else. The literal meaning is expressed in a sustained metaphor.
Amen - Solemn prayerful affirmation, often spoken by Christ, used as an acclamation of assent (Etym. Latin & Greek amen, verily, so be it; from aman, to confirm.)
Analogy - Similarity without identity, or any imperfect likeness between two or more beings or things that are compared.
Analogy of Faith - The Catholic doctrine that every individual statement of faith must be understood in light of the Church's whole objective body of belief or faith.
Anamnesis - After the consecration, the prayer of remembrance in which the Church calls to mind the Lord's passion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. The high point of the Mass as a memorial of what happened during Christ's visible stay on earth as a pledge of what He continues to do invisibly through the Eucharist (Etym. Greek anamnesis, calling to mind, recollection.)
Anathema - Solemn condemnation by the Church declaring this or that position or teaching contradicts faith and doctrine. (Etym. Greek anathema, thing devoted to evil, curse; an accursed thing or person.)
Anselmian - Argument Famous argument by St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) for the existence of God, whom we designate as the being no greater than which can be conceived. Even the atheist will accept that much. However, such a conception cannot exist only in the mind because such a notion then concedes that one could think of something still greater, namely the same being existing outside the mind, i.e., in reality. Therefore God exists both in mind and reality.
Antecedent - Grace The actual grace that precedes and affects a deliberate act of the will. Also called prevenient--arousing, calling, and operating grace--it is grace considered prior to or independent of man's free co-operation.
Anthropomorphism - The attribution of human form and qualities to the Deity, a common enough literary method in the Bible to depict or dramatize God's dealing with humanity.
Antinomianism - The doctrine that a person's faith in God frees him from the obligations of the moral law. Any notion that so stresses the Holy Spirit's work as to exclude the need for cooperation with divine grace. Council of Trent condemned it in the Reformation idea of faith without works. (Etym. Greek anti, against + nomos, law.)
Apokatastasis - Theory that hell is essentially a kind of purgatory in which sins are expiated, so that eventually all will be saved.
Apologetics - The science that aims to explain and justify religious doctrine. It shows the reasonableness of such in the face of objections launched by the enemies of religion. Also called fundamental theology as the science that establishes the credibility of divine revelation.
Apostasy - Total rejection by a baptized person of the faith he once professed. (Etym. Latin apostasia, falling away or separation from God.)
A Posteriori - From what is after, from effect back to cause. Reasoning from experience or inductively. Oppostive of a priori. To prove God's existence from creatures as effects to the Creator as their First Cause.
Apostolic Fathers - Christian writers of the first centuries thought to have had personal relations with Apostles or been directly influenced by their writings, or whom Sts. Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna were the most significant
Appetite - The spontaneous movement of a faculty to a good, naturally suitable to itself or away from something evil to it. When toward, the appetite is called concupiscible and corresponds to desire; when away from, it is called irascible and becomes some form of resistance.
A Priori - From what is before, from cause to effect. Reasoning from principles to conclusions, or from prior knowledge to consequences; therefore deduction. A basic premise of Catholic morality in reducing general norms to specific practice.
Arianism - Fourth-century heresy, proposed by a priest of Alexandria named Arius, who denied the divinity of Christ It assailed the very foundations of Christian conviction by reducing the Incarnation to a mere figure of speech. If the logos was only created and not divine, then God did not become man and redeem the world, thus dissolving all the mysteries of faith. It was condemned at the Council of Nicaea in 325.
Aristotelianism - System of thought fashioned by Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) in which all knowledge is divided into 3 categories: theoretical, concerned with the truth for its own sake; the practical, directed to the guidance of conduct; and the productive, to be used in the cultivation of the arts. St Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) built on Aristotle an impressive philosophy of the Christian faith.
Article of Faith - Term used in catechism of Trent when speaking of the Apostles' Creed: "The chief truths which Christians must hold are those which the holy Apostles, the leaders and teachers of the faith, inspired by the Holy Spirit have divided into twelve Articles of the Creed." (Etym. Latin articulus, a joint member, part.)
Artificial Insemination - Any procedure by which the male spermatozoa and the female ovum are brought together apart from and wholly distinct from an act of natural intercourse. Because it isolates generation from the conjugal union of the marital act itself (life from love from sex), the Church forbids it.
Asceticism - Spiritual effort or exercise in the pursuit of virtue pursuant to perfection of the soul.
Atonement - Reparation of an offense, which occurs through a voluntary performance whose merit outweighs the injustice done. (Etym. Middle English at one, to set at one, to reconcile.)
Attrition - Imperfect contrition, which is sorrow for sin, based on faith, from motives that are self-interested and not the perfect love of God. Sufficient for valid absolution, however, despite Luther's rejection of it as "repentance of the gallows" out of fear of God.
Auricular Confession - The obligation by divine law of confessing grave sin to a priest. (Etym. Latin auricula the external ear.)
Beatific Vision - As defined by the Church, the souls of the just "see the divine essence by an intuitive vision and face to face, so that the divine essence is known immediately. showing itself plainly, clearly and openly, and not mediately through any creature." As a result of which the blessed share in the divine happiness.
Blasphemy - Speaking against God in a contemptuous, scornful, or abusive manner. A grave violation of charity toward God.
Bona Fide - In good faith, said of actions that may have been objectively mistaken or wrong but were done with good intentions and without culpability; also used to describe the genuine or authentic.
Calumny - Injuring another person's good name by lying. It is doubly sinful, in unjustly depriving another of his good name and in telling an untruth. (Etym. Latin calumnia. a false accusation. malicious charge; from calvi. to deceive.)
Calvinism - Religious system of John Calvin (1504-64) holding that as a result of Adam's sin, man has no internal freedom of the will; he is a slave of God or the Devil. Everyone therefore is eternally predestined, either for heaven or hell, absolutely independent of personal effort. Thus the elect cannot be lost nor can the reprobate be saved.
Canon - An established rule for guidance, a standard or list of such rules, e.g., the catalogue of inspired writings known as Old and New Testaments, identified as such by the Church.
Cardinal Virtue - One of the 4 principal virtues of human morality, to which all the others are necessarily related. These are: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. (Etym. Latin cardo, hinge.)
Casuistry - The theological science of applying general moral principles to particular cases of conscience. Its purpose is to adapt the unchangeable norms of Christian morality to variable circumstances of human life.
Catechetical Synthesis - A summary of Catholic doctrine serving as the framework for instructing the people in the essentials of faith.
Catholic - Term first used by St. Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 35-107) to designate those Christians who profess a continued tradition of faith and worship tracing back to the Apostles of Christ (Etym. Latin catholicus. universal; Greek katholiko. universal.)
Certitude - Firm assent of the mind to a proposition without fear of error. It implies a clear knowledge that the evidence for the assent excludes even the possibility of error.
Christendom - The Christian polity insofar as the principles of Christian faith governed the laws and civil institutions of nations. Its history began with the liberation of the Church under Constantine, and developed through more than a millennium in most of the countries of Europe, remaining fairly intact until the Protestant Revolt of the sixteenth-century. In its best days, it represented the corporate Christian social life, and its impact on world civilization through the arts and philosophy, law and the medieval universities has been great and lasting.
Christology - The scientific study of the person of Jesus Christ, especially the mystery of the union in Christ of the divine and human natures. (Etym. Greek Christos, Christ + logia, science, knowledge.)
Church Militant - The Church on earth, still struggling with sin and temptation, and therefore engaged in warfare with the world, flesh, and the devil.
Church of Silence - The Christians in Communist-controlled countries.
Church Suffering - The Church of all the faithful departed who are saved but are still being purified in purgatorial suffering.
Church Triumphant - The Church of all those in heavenly glory.
City of God - Celebrated work by St. Augustine, setting out the most complete defense of the faith against paganism in the early Church. Athwart the charge that repeated failures of Roman Empire due to rise of Christianity, Augustine shows immorality of pagans produced its disintegration. Theme of book, published in 427, is that natural unity of race broken by fall of Adam, as a result mankind divided everywhere between inhabitants of two cities: City of the Devil (Civitas Diaboli), peopled by men who love self even to the contempt of God, and City of God (Civitas Dei), inhabited by men who love God even to the contempt of self.
Collegiality - The bishops of the Church, united under the Pope as an episcopal community. Says Lumen Gentium: "St Peter and the other Apostles constitute a single apostolic college. In like manner, the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, successors of the Apostles, are linked together." This community having been created by Christ, belongs by divine right to the nature of the Church He founded.
Communion of Saints - The unity and co-operation of the members of the Church on earth with those in heaven and in purgatory, all of whom wedded in a single Mystical Body of Christ Our communion is rooted in professing a common faith, obeying the same authority, assisting one another with prayers and works, honoring saints in heaven and praying for souls in purgatory.
Compunction - Momentary sorrow of regret for having done, or contemplated doing, something wrong. (Etym. Latin compunctio, remorse, the sting of conscience; from compungere, to prick.)
Conciliarism - Theory that a general council of the Church is higher in authority than the Pope, a notion begun in the 14dt century when respect of the papacy was undermined by confusion in Church and State. Formally condemned at First Vatican Council (1869-70) which defined papal primacy, declaring that the Pope had "full and supreme jurisdiction over the universal Church."
Concomitant Grace - Sometimes called co-operating grace, it is assistance given in responding to a prevenient grace. Compared to a mother who, having coaxed a child to walk, actually takes it by the arms to effect a few necessary steps. With prevenient grace, God acts without man's cooperation; in this grace God acts together with the free co-operation of human will.
Concupiscence - Insubordination of man's desires to the dictates of reason, and the propensity of human nature to sin as a result of original sin. Spontaneous movement of the appetites toward whatever the imagination portrays as pleasant and away from the painful. (Etym. Latin con-, thoroughly + cupere, to desire: concupiscenti~ desire, greed, cupidity.)
Confessions of St. Augustine - Greatest autobiography of Christianity. Written about 400, it tells a tale of conversion from unbelief and Manichaeism to faith. Central theme is necessity of divine grace to cope with human weakness, and power of God to transform a sinner into a saint.
Consubstantiation - The belief, contrary to Catholic doctrine, that in the Eucharist the body and blood of Christ co-exist with the bread and wine after the consecration.
Contingent - That which need not exist, depending for its being upon that of another, namely God. Thus all creatures are contingent, sustained entirely by Another.
Contraception - Deliberate interference with marital intercourse in order to prevent conception, which the Church has forbidden from earliest times.
Convergence - Process of reasoning that leads to certainty, not because anyone argument is conclusive but rather the cumulative effect of several all bear upon the issue.
Co-Redemptrix - Title of Our Lady as co-operator with Christ in work of redemption. Aspect of her mediation in which she not only consented to become Mother of God, but in fact gave assent in the midst of His sufferings and death for the world's deliverance.
Counter Reformation - Period of Catholic revival from 1522 to about 1648, better known as the Catholic Reformation. Effort to stem tide of Protestantism by genuine renewal within Christendom, due largely to robust papacy and reforms of Trent
De Fide - Term meaning "of faith" used to identify those doctrines of the Church which are infallibly true.
Deism - Theory that accepts existence of God on purely rational grounds but denies or doubts or rejects as incredible the truth of Christian faith. Thus revelation, miracles, grace, and mysteries are excluded.
Demiurge - Originally a craftsman working for the people, used by Plato (427-347 B.C.) to designate the Maker of the Material Universe. Later it became a common term in Gnosticism as one who personifies evil of matter.
Demonology - Science or doctrine concerning demons, who were originally thought to be spirits between the gods and men. In the New Testament any evil spirit or devil, which is to say a malevolent, invisible being bent on destruction of human soul.
Demythology - Theory that claims language and spirit as Scriptures are mythical in character, and thus to understand real facts of Christ's life and teaching one must strip away such layers.
Deontologism - Theory associated with Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), that only acts done from a motive of duty have moral value; a most austere and unbending moral philosophy.
Desacralization - Conscious removal or reduction of sacred symbols from religious life and worship; the result of a loss of interest in those revealed mysteries pertaining to God.
Desecration - Profanation of a sacred person, place, or thing. Churches may be desecrated by notorious crimes committed within them, such as willful murder or use of the sacred space for godless and sordid purposes.
Diabolism - Worship of the devil by invoking his assistance, depending on his guidance, and consciously choosing to honor the evil spirit in preference to God. (Etym. Greek diabolos, slanderer.
Dialectical Materialism - Philosophy founded by Marx and Engels, and condemned by the Church. It holds that only matter is real, that it predates mind, which is merely an outgrowth of it; that everything is in constant process of self-transformation, which when applied to society means conflict becomes fundamental law of human progress.
Docetism - Heretical system dating from apostolic times, which held that Christ only seemed to be a man, who was born, lived, suffered, and died. Could not abide to God, who is pure spirit, becoming incarnate in a material body.
Doctrine - Any truth taught by the Church as necessary for acceptance by the faithful. (Etym. Latin doctrina, teaching.)
Dogma - A doctrine proposed for belief by the Church because it is part of divine revelation; the acceptance of dogma helps determine one's salvation. (Etym. Latin dogma, from Greek dogma, declaration, decree.)
Dogmatic Fact - A truth that, though not revealed by God, nevertheless comes under the infallible teaching authority of the Church. Examples: valid election of a pope, validity of an ecumenical council, actuality of a canonized saint's presence in heaven.
Dogmatic Relativism - Theory that all dogmas are time- and circumstance-conditioned. Denial that revelation has ended with death of last apostle, but that it is still going on, and that with each new insight deriving from experience dogmas change, the newer ones replacing the older ones.
Donatism - Heresy of 4th and 5th centuries, holding that validity of sacraments depends on moral character of priest; also that sinners cannot be members of the Church.
Dormition - Feast of the Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Ecclesia - Catechism of Trent defines this as the Church, which is the faithful of the whole world. (Etym. Greek ekklesia, assembly of people called together.)
Efficacious Grace - The actual grace to which free consent is given by the will so that the grace produces its divinely intended effect.
Entitative habit - Sanctifying grace as a permanent quality added to human nature and directly modifying its being (entity) rather than its operations, as in the case of virtues.
Epikeia - Liberal and generous interpretation of law in those instances not provided by the letter of the law. It presupposes sincerity in wanting to observe the law, and favors liberty of the interpreter without contradicting the express will of the lawgiver. (Etym. Greek epieikes, reasonable.)
Erastianism - System of Church-State relations which grants the supremacy of civil rulers in matters of religion; it became the theological ground for the established churches in England and elsewhere.
Eschatology - Four Last Things ever to be remembered: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell. (Etym. Greek eschatos, uttennost + logos, discourse on.)
Esoteric - Something meant for only a few experts or initiates. The opposite of exoteric, which is meant for all.
Eucharist - Body and Blood of Christ, really and substantially present under appearances of bread and wine, offered in the sacrifice of the Mass and received as spiritual food in Holy Communion. It means thanksgiving because at its institution at the Last Supper Christ" gave thanks," and by this fact it is the supreme object and act of Christian gratitude to God.
Exegesis - Art and science of investigating and expressing the true sense of Sacred Scripture.
Ex Opere Operantis - The subjective factor in reception of a sacrament, which determines (at least partially) the amount of grace conferred.
Ex Opere Operato - Objective factor in sacramental reception, which means "from the work performed," i.e., provided no obstacle is placed in the way, every sacrament confers the grace intended by the sacrament. In a true sense sacraments are instrumental causes of grace.
Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus - Outside the Church there is no salvation. No person who culpably refuses to become a member of the Church can be saved. All who reach heaven are saved through the Church, even though they may not have professed themselves as explicit Catholics. (Fourth Lateran Council, A.D. 1215.)
Fathers of the Church - Saintly writers of early Church recognized as special witnesses of the faith. Antiquity, orthodoxy, sanctity, and approval by the Church are the criteria. Last of the Western Fathers was St Isidore of Seville (560-636), and last of the Eastern ones was St John Damascene (675-749).
Fideism - Theory that faith is the only or ultimate source of knowledge of God, it denies capacity of reason to know God or the moral law with certainty.
Gallicanism - Cluster of doctrines, favored by the French Church, that tended to limit the authority of the pope in relation to the bishops, and to subordinate the rights of the Church to the power of the State. French Revolution drove the bishops into the arms of the Pope and dealt a mortal blow to Gallicanism, but the basic idea was still alive until Vatican I formally condemned it in 1870.
Gnosis - Spiritual knowledge. In a valid sense it is knowledge of divine mysteries possessed already in this life, though darkly as a "hidden wisdom" (I Cor. 2:6-16). In a heretical sense it is recurring error of men who claim specialized knowledge of divine things exclusively from their own private fund of wisdom and experience, and even in contradiction to the Church's teaching authority. (Etym. Greek gnosis, knowledge.)
Grace - Totally gratuitous gift on which man has absolutely no claim; that supernatural gift that God, of His free benevolence, bestows on rational creatures for their eternal salvation. (Etym. Latin gratia, favor; a gift freely given.)
Gratia Gratis Data - Grace freely given, it is conferred on some for the salvation of others, and remains independent of the moral life or behavior of its possessor. To this class belong such gifts of grace as charismata (prophecy, gift of miracles or tongues), the priestly power of consecration and absolution, and the hierarchical power of jurisdiction.
Guardian Angel - Celestial spirit assigned by God to watch over each individual during life, whose function is both to guide and guard; to guide as a messenger of God's will to our minds and to guard as instruments of God's goodness in protecting us from evil.
Hagiography - Writings about the saints and martyrs.
Hagiology - Science of the saints, whose purpose is to analyze their spirituality and apply one's findings to the faithful's own pursuit of holiness. (Etym. Greek agios, holy + logos, discourse.)
Heresy - Opinion at variance with the authorized teachings of the Church. Four elements constitute formal heresy: previous valid baptism; external profession of still being a Christian, otherwise it is apostasy; outright denial or doubt regarding a truth taught by the Church; disbelief must be morally culpable. (Etym. Latin haeresis, from the Greek hairesis, a taking, choice.)
Hermeneutics - Art and science of interpreting the Sacred Scriptures and of inquiring into their true meaning. (Etym. Greek hermeneus, interpreter.)
Homily - Sermon or informal discourse on some part of the Sacred Scriptures, which aims to illumine the literal meaning of the chosen text and to apply it to the moral or spiritual life.
Homoousios - Term first defined at Council of Nicaea to identify Christ's relation to the Father, which is one and the same substance or nature of the Father. (Etym. Greek homousios, of one essence, consubstantial.)
Hypostasis - An individual, complete substance existing entirely in itself, which the Church uses to identify the persons in the Trinity and union of two natures in one divine person in Christ. A person is a hypostasis endowed with reason; it is the bearer of the nature and ultimate subject of all being and doing, nature being and doing, nature being that through which the person acts. (Etym. Latin hypostasis, basis; single substance; person; Greek hypostasis, support, foundation, substance, sediment.)
Inconoclasm - Heresy rejecting as superstition the use of religious images and advocated their destruction; occasioned by the rise of Islam in 8th century, which considered all sacred images idolatrous. (Etym. Greek eidon, image + klaein, to break.)
Illuminative Way - Intermediary stage between purification and union on the path to perfection. Also called "Way of the Proficients," the main feature of which is enlightenment of the mind in the ways of God and clear understanding of his will in one's state in life.
Immanence - Presence or operation within someone or something. Total "within-ness." (Etym. Latin immanere, to remain in, hold to.)
Immolation - Actual or equivalent destruction of some material object as an act of sacrifice. (Etym. Latin immolatio, sacrifice.)
Impassibility - Quality of the glorified human body in being free from every kind of physical evil, such as sorrow or sickness, injury or death.
Indefectability - Imperishable duration of the Church and her immutability until end of time. The First Vatican Council declared that the Church possesses "an unconquered stability" and that "built on a rock, she will continue to stand until the end of time."
Indult - Temporary favor granted by the Holy See to bishops to permit them to do something not otherwise allowed.
Ineffable - That which is inexpressible. Only God is ultimately ineffable because only He cannot be fully comprehended by the finite mind. Since knowledge determines expression, the divine ineffability is a result of the divine incomprehensibility. "More true than our speech about God is our thinking of Him, and more true than our thinking is His Being," wrote Augustine.
Infallibility - Freedom from error in teaching on matters of faith and morals. The bearer of such is the Pope, whose exercise of this charism depends on his speaking ex cathedra (from the chair); which means: 1. That he have the intention of declaring something unchangeably true, and 2. He speak as supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful with the full weight of his apostolic authority.
Intrinsic - That which is essential or belongs to the nature of a thing. That which is inherent to something, as freedom is intrinsic to merit, and knowledge is intrinsic to love.
Investiture - Practice in the early Middle Ages of an emperor investing an abbot or bishop-elect with the ring and staff to receive homage before consecration. Condemned by the Church as early as 1059.
Invincible Ignorance - Lack of knowledge for which a person is not morally responsible.
(Etym. Latin in, not + vincibilis, easily overcome; invincibilis.)
Ipsum Esse - Existence itself. Applied to God as subsistent Being, or the Being whose essence is existence, i.e., who essentially exists, or who cannot not exist, unlike all other creatures none of whom need necessarily exist.
Kairos - Literally a "period of time." Time in a religiously significant sense, as in "the now moment," or "the moment of salvation."
Kenosis - Voluntary renunciation by Christ of his right to divine privilege in his humble acceptance of human status. (Etym. Greek kenosis, an emptying.)
Magisterium - The Church's teaching authority, vested in the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, under the Roman Pontiff, as successor of St Peter. Also vested in the Pope, as Vicar of Christ and visible head of the Catholic Church. (Etym. Latin magister, master.)
Malum - in se Bad in itself. Human acts that are basically wicked, such as blasphemy, and not merely due to a bad intention.
Man - Latin homo, a human being, as distinct from vir, a male person. The term has no perfect English equivalent, but is part of the Church's official vocabulary and occurs in every major document of the Church.
Manichaeism - Dualistic heresy from 3rd century, named after Mani, a Persian, who taught two principles: that of goodness and light which is spiritual, and that of evil and darkness which is material. Man's spirit is from God, his body from the devil; between the two there is perpetual warfare. Good triumphs only insofar as spirit rises superior to matter, which is to be denigrated and despised. Man is finally not responsible for evil he commits since it is not due to free will but dominance of the devil.
Marks of the Church - Four essential notes characterizing Church or Christ: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
Metaphysics - Science of being, as being; or of the absolutely first principles of being. Also called ontology, first philosophy, the philosophy of being, wisdom. (Etym. Greek meta, after, beyond + physika, physics.)
Modernism - Theory about origin and nature of Christianity, which first emerged at the end of the last century, reducing it to a matter of experience. There is no objective revelation from God, nor reasonable grounds for the credibility of faith, based on miracles or the testimony of history. Faith is merely a motion of the heart, hidden and unconscious, incapable of expression in doctrinal language. Condemned by Pius X in 1907. (Etym. Latin modernus, belonging to the present fashion.)
Monogenism - Doctrine that human race derived from one original human being, i.e., Adam. This is the Church's constant traditional teaching. (Etym. Latin mono, one + genus, race.)
Monstrance - Symbol of Blessed Sacrament since it is the sacred vessel containing the Host when exposed or carried in procession. (Etym. Latin monstrare, to show, point out, indicate.)
Montanism - Heretical movement of 2nd century, which professed belief in a new Church of the Spirit, whose members saw themselves as specially gifted by the Holy Spirit as prophets of Christ's second coming. Substance of their doctrine was that the Holy Spirit was now supplementing the revelation of Christ, thus displacing bishops and popes in his outpouring of gifts. Condemned around 202 by Pope Zephyrinus.
Moral Relativism - Notion that moral standards vary from one society and period to another. Ethical principles mere products of the moment, not universally binding or rooted objectively in human nature.
Mystery - Divinely revealed truth whose very possibility cannot be rationally conceived in advance, nor, following its disclosure, fully understood by the finite mind. This is because their origin is God, who being infinite is beyond the complete grasp of the created mind. Nevertheless, though incomprehensible, mysteries are intelligible. (Etym. Greek mysterion, something closed, a secret)
Mystical Body - The Catholic Church established by Christ as an extension and continuation of the Incarnation. Declared Pius XII: "If we would define and describe the true Church of Jesus Christ--which is the one, holy, Catholic, apostolic Roman Church--we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine that the expression 'the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ'..."
Natural Law - As distinct from revealed law, it is, said St. Thomas, "nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law." Everyone is subject to it from birth, and it contains all that is derivable from human nature itself, which can be known by the unaided light of reason. See Romans 2: 14-15.
Nature and Grace - Two ultimates of human existence viewed in their mutual relationship. Nature is what human beings are and have at birth. Grace is what they further require to reach their eternal destiny.
Neo-Modernism - Effort to reconcile modem science and philosophy at the expense of the integrity of faith, with its roots in that Modernism condemned by Pius X. It, too, rejects belief in the supernatural and views the Church as merely a human society. It further denies original sin, that Christ was divine, and it holds dogma to be mere verbal formulations whose meaning changes with the times.
Neo-Scholasticism - Revival of medieval Scholasticism in this century, thanks in part to the impetus provided by Leo XIII's Aeterni Patris (1879).
Nihilism - Notion that nothing really matters, what must be, must be; that the world is absurdity, scarcely worth the trouble to sustain.
Nominalism - Theory that universal ideas, like truth, goodness, beauty, humanity, are only names. It denies that universals are true concepts, present in the mind, corresponding to and founded upon objective reality.
Norm - Any criterion for determining what is true or false, good or bad. For example, norms of truth to which the mind must conform to make correct judgments; norms of conduct to which the will must conform to perform good actions. (Etym. Latin norm~ rule, pattern.)
Norms of Orthodoxy - Also called "Rules for Thinking with the Church," of St. Ignatius Loyola. They are 16 in number the first of which is an epitome of the rest" ...put aside all judgment of our own and keep the mind ever ready and prompt to obey in all things the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, and Holy Mother, the hierarchical Church."
Numinous - That which constitutes the holy, which conveys two sorts of feelings: awe and self-abasement at the Terrifying Unknown (Mysterium Tremendum) and enchantment (fascinatio), which the unknown induces in those who allow themselves to be charmed. (Etym. Latin numen, the divine will or command.)
Orthodoxy - Right belief as compared with heterodoxy or heresy. (Etym. Greek orthos, right + dox~ opinion.)
Orthopraxis - Right conduct Also used by those who minimize the importance of right doctrine, claiming that behavior and not belief is primary in Christianity. (Etym. Greek orthos, upright, right + praxis, doing, action.)
Pain of Loss - Eternal loss of the beatific vision in hell. The primary punishment of the evil spirits and of those souls who die rejecting God. (Pain of Sense is suffering caused by some agent called "fire" in Scripture, external to the person and secondary to the main punishment.)
Pantheism - Belief that all things are divine. or that God and the universe are identical. (Etym. Greek pan, alI + thoos, god.)
Paradigm - Perfect model or pattern. Christ, for example, is the paradigm of Christian sanctity. (Etym. Latin paradigma; from Greek paradeigma. a pattern. model.)
Paradox - An apparent contradiction that is really true. Christianity is the religion of paradox: that God should be human, that life come through death, that achievement come through failure, that folly is wisdom, that happiness is to mourn, that to find one must lose, and that the greatest are the smallest (Etym. Latin paradoxum; from Green paradoxon. contrary to received opinion or expectation.)
Patristics - Study of the Fathers of the Church, their lives, writings, doctrine, and theology. (Also called Patrology. Etym. Greek pater. father + logia, knowledge.)
Pelagianism - Heretical teaching of the monk Pelagius (355-425), which virtually denied the necessity of grace for salvation. Among his errors, for which he was several time condemned were that Adam's fall injured only himself and at worst affected his posterity by giving them a bad example.
Pleroma - Sum total of blessing brought to the world by Christ; also applied to the fullness of divinity in Christ, and the Church as the plentitude or complement of Christ. (Etym. Greek pleroma, fullness.)
Quiddity - Essence of a thing, answering the question "What is it?" In scholastic terminology it is the definition of something. (Etym. Latin quidditas. what a thing is, essence, so called because in answer to the question "Quid est res?"--What is a thing?--the essence of a thing is expected.)
Quietism - General name for any view of spiritual life that minimizes human activity and moral responsibility. Its basic position is that. to become perfect, one must be totally passive, annihilate one's will and so totally abandon oneself to God that one cares for neither heaven nor hell. In prayer, the perfect soul makes no acts of love or petition, nor even of adoration. Such total passivity makes mortification or the sacraments unnecessary; sin becomes impossible to perfect souls. Condemned in 1687 in the person of Miguel de Molinos.
Reification - Claim of atheist philosophers like Nietzsche that all religion is make-believe, the results of the believers projecting their subjective hopes and making them into realities which in fact do not exist. (Etym. Latin res. thing, fact + facere, to make.)
Ritual - Prescribed words and ceremonies for a religious service. (Etym. Latin ritualis, from ritus, rite, form.)
Sacrament - An outward sign instituted be Christ to give grace; the efficacy of which depending upon the rite itself, i.e.. they really do contain the grace they signify.
Sacramentals - Objects or actions not directly instituted by Christ but used after the manner of sacraments, in order to achieve spiritual good through the merits of the faithful. Their variety spans the whole range of space and time, word and action, object and gesture.
Sacred - The holy or divine; that which pertains to God, the eternal, the heavenly, the mysterious, the infinite. In all religions, the sacred is the Absolute, which does not change. (Etym. Latin sacrare. to set apart as sacred, consecrate.)
Sacrilege - Deliberate violation of sacred things, i.e., person, place or object set aside publicly and for the worship of God. (Etym. Latin sacrilegium, the robbing of a temple, the stealing of sacred things.)
Sanctifying - Grace Supernatural state of being infused by God, which permanently inheres in the soul; the vital principle of the supernatural life.
Schism - Willful separation from the unity of the Church. "By false doctrines concerning God," says Augustine, "heretics would the faith; by sinful dissensions schismatics deviate from fraternal charity, although they believe what we believe." (Etym. Latin schisma; from Greek skhisma, a split, division.)
Scruple - Unreasonable doubt about the morality of an act done or to be done; rooted in an erroneous conscience combined with lack of control concerning the emotion of fear.
Scrupulosity is the habit of imagining sin where none exists, or grave sin where the matter is venial. (Etym. Latin scrupulus, small, sharp stone, small weight, from scrupus, rough stone.)
Secularism - Closed system that affirms that human existence and destiny are fully explicable in terms of this world without reference to eternity. (Etym. Latin saecularis, pertaining to the world; saeculum, the world.)
Sempiternity - Eternity considered as having neither beginning nor end; hence possessed only by God, who, unlike creatures, never began. Moreover, He always will be because God cannot be, unlike creatures who may continue eternally but not by any necessity of being.
Solipsism - Extreme subjectivism, holding only that the ego exists, everything else being only an image of oneself. In practice the attitude of those who care only for themselves. (Etym. Latin sol us, alone + ipse, self + ism.)
Soteriology - That part of Christology concerning Christ's work of salvation. (Etym. Greek soterion, deliverance; from soter, savior.)
Stylites - Pillar saints. Solitaries who dwelled on the ruins of structures surmounting columns or pillars. In this way they practiced mortification, while also preaching to the people or giving spiritual advice. The most celebrated was St Simeon of Antioch (390-459).
Subsistence - The existence proper to a whole and uncommunicated substance or reality. It is that perfection whereby a nature is completed and becomes uncommunicated, that is, it becomes itself and distinct from all other beings. Something subsists when it has being and operation through itself, not through union with another. Applied to God as One who exists essentially or by identity within His essence. Applied as well to the Church, in which, it is said, subsists the fullness of the Church founded by Christ (Etym. Latin subsistentia, self-contained existence; susistere, to stay, abide; to stand under.)
Sui Generis - Alone of its kind. Any person, event, or thing that is extraordinary or unusual. Principally said of God, who is absolutely unique.
Supralapsarians - Followers of Calvin who held that God's decree of reprobation of some to hell was absolute, and not conditioned by the Fall. God would have condemned them even had Adam not sinned. This was John Calvin's position.
Te Deum Laudamus - "We praise You, O God." First words of an ancient Christian hymn of praise and thanksgiving.
Teilhardism - Evolutionary theory of Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) holding that the universe is subject to 4 stages of development 1. Cosmogenesis, from the elements to organized matter; 2. Biogenesis, from organized matter to life; 3. Neo-genesis, from living things to rational beings; 4. Christogenesis, from individual rational humanity to a world governed by Christ the Lord. His writings abound, said the Church both in 1952 and 1967, "in such ambiguities and indeed serious errors as to offend Catholic doctrine."
Teleology - Notion that there is purpose or finality in the world, that nothing ever happens merely by chance, that no complete account of the universe is possible without final reference to an all-wise God. (Etym. Greek telos, end, completion + logia, knowledge, science.)
Theodicy - Natural theology, or study of God's existence and attributes as known by the light of natural reason, apart from supernatural revelation. Its main focus is to vindicate God's goodness and providence despite the manifest evils of the world.
Transubstantiation - Complete change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ's body and blood by a validly ordained priest during the consecration at Mass, so that only the accidents of bread and wine remain. The term was first incorporated into the creed of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.
Ultramontane - Catholics who agreed with the Pope on matters of doctrine and policy. The name means "beyond the Alps," meaning Rome.
Vicar of Christ - The Pope, visible head of the Church on earth, acting for and in the place of Christ.
Zeitgeist - Spirit of the times.