General (of religious order), "in the Roman Catholic Church, the supreme head, under the pope, of the aggregated communities throughout Christendom belonging to a religious order. The governing authorities of the monastic orders in the Roman Catholic Church may be arranged in three classes:

(1.) The superiors of individual convents or communities, called in different orders by the various names of abbot, prior, rector, guardian, etc.;

(2.) The provincials, who have authority over all the convents of an entire province — the provinces, in the monastic sense of the word, being usually coincident as to local limits with the several kingdoms is which the order is established;

Definition of general

(3.) The general, to whom not only each member of the order, but all the various officials of every rank, are absolutely subject. The general is usually elected by the general chapter of the order, which, in the majority of orders, consists properly of the provincials, with whom, however, are commonly associated the heads of the more important monasteries, as also the superiors of certain subdivisions of provinces. The office of general in most orders is held for three years. In that of the Jesuits it is for life; but in all, the election of the general chapter must be confirmed by the pope. In most orders, too, there is assigned to the general a consultor (admonitor) or associate (socius), who, however, is entitled to advise, but has no authority to control the superior. The general, also, is supposed to consult with and to receive reports from the various local superiors. He sends, if necessary, a visitor to inquire into particular abuses, or to report upon such controversies as may arise, and he holds a general chapter of the order at stated times, which differ according to the usage of the several orders. The general is exempt from episcopal jurisdiction, being subject to the immediate jurisdiction of the pope himself. He resides in Rome, where he enjoys certain privileges, the most important of which is the right to sit and vote with the bishops in a general council of the Church." — Chambers, Encyclopaedia, s.v.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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