Sedes Impedita (a hindered see). An expression by which the canons designate the state of the papal or an episcopal office when its functions are seriously hindered or altogether interrupted by the force of difficulties from without.
1. The interruption of episcopal functions (sedes episcopalis impedita) may be occasioned (1) when outward foes (pagans or heretics) have seized the occupant of the chair and hold him prisoner. In this case the chapter administers the diocese, either directly or through a vicar, until the will of the pope can be ascertained (Sext. c. 3; De Suppl. Negl. Proel. 1, 8). (2) When a bishop is removed from his diocese and imprisoned by the government of his own country. The chapter must then immediately report the circumstance to the papal chair, and until the case is decided the administration will rest in the hands of the vicar-general on the spot (comp. Phillips and Görres, Hist.-polit. Blätter, vol. 2, No. 3, p. 158 sq.). (3) When the bishop has been suspended or excommunicated, or when physical weakness or mental imbecility unfits him for the further exercise of his office. Since in the former case the action emanated directly from the papal chair, and that action operates to destroy the official authority of the vicar- general at the same time (Sext. c. 1; De Off. Vicar. 1, 13), the pope at once makes provision for the temporary government of the diocese. In the latter case an episcopal coadjutor must be appointed.
2. Papal functions are interrupted (sedes apostolica impedita) when the pope is imprisoned and prevented from administering his office, in which case as many cardinals as may be available perform its functions so far as strict necessity requires, or as the provisional directions of the pope himself may allow; or when hostile powers prevent access to the papal chair or render it extremely difficult. In this case the authority of bishops within their dioceses is extended to take such provisional action as may become necessary, but in harmony with the current practice of the apostolical chair.