Prior, Prioress

Prior, Prioress are, according to the constitution of several ecclesiastical orders, the heads of their monasteries and nunneries. The prior is either the first or sole authority in the monastery, or he is subordinated, as second leader, to a higher officer of the same monastery, the abbot (q.v.). The latter case happens when the abbot makes use of his right to appoint in his place an assistant, a temporary vicar (q.v.), who is trusted with part of the prelate's attributes. Sometimes the statutes of the order prescribe that the prior shall be as the second head of the monastery, elected by the members, they assigning him a power of his own more or less independent (De Stat. Monast. 3, 35). In other orders, as in that of the Benedictines, and even in some regular congregations, we find only one, or a few, principal monasteries-the mother abbeys, to which the others owe their origin, or whose subsequent reform they have adopted-subject to the direction of abbots or prelates, i.e. local superiors of the first rank, while the inferior monasteries are administered by priors: the latter exercise the regular jurisdiction over the monks, and are bound only in important matters to obtain the consent of the prelate of the mother abbey. The same distinction subsists in the nunneries. — Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. s.v.

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