Supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power

The Pope is the boss:

The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely. [Code of Canon Law, #331]

I’m interested in the phrase,

full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church

The construction of this sentence (in English) suggests that the adjective “ordinary” modifies “power,” and the adjectives “full, immediate, and universal” modify the phrase "ordinary power.

The word “ordinary” means something very specific in Church parlance, and is distinguished from the word “extraordinary” (ie, not ordinary). Most Sacraments have “ordinary” and “extraordinary” components. For example, the *ordinary *minister of Baptism is a priest or Bishop (deacons are delegated), but an *extraordinary *minister can be anybody.

The use of the term “ordinary” in this Canon leads me to believe that the Church recognizes an “extraordinary” power. If this were not the case, there would be no need to include this adjective. I have found that Canon Law does not typically include legal terms that are irrelevant or redundant.

What would be an example of an “extraordinary” authority that a Pope might not possess per Canon 331? And who would possess this authority?

Good question! I’m subscribing to this thread. :slight_smile:

Modifying dogma, maybe? And no one, if so. (Well… God does, but if He wanted reality to be different than it was on such a level, He would have built that in when He made it.)

But for things that wouldn’t involve changing known teachings, not sure.


Can. 131 §1. “The ordinary power of governance is that which is joined to a certain office by the law itself; delegated, that which is granted to a person but not by means of an office.”

There is no “extraordinary” power in canon law. One who has ordinary power is not limited to “ordinary” (as opposed to extraordinary) use of that power. The word, as defined in the above canon, has a different meaning in this context.


Well my first thought is that if the Church specified the extraordinary power of the Pope, what does that say about God … super-duper extraordinary power?

But the power of the Pope is already specified: supreme, full, immediate, and universal

That’s powerful.

It seems to me that extraordinary is reserved for God, and the use of ordinary - reserved for the Pope - keeps it in perspective of who is the boss.

Does the word ordinary refer to the fact that he is the one Bishop whose powers are supreme, full, immediate, and universal rather than limited to the Diocese in which they serve?

Perhaps “extraordinary” in this context would mean the actions of a Vatican counsel, congregation of the curia, or other such who hold authority in the Church. ???

The word “ordinary” in this context is does not have the usual meaning, which is opposed to “extraordinary.”

It refers to a power or authority which is inherent to the office itself.

So, no “extraordinary” has nothing to do with it.

Maybe people will see and listen to your answer. Mine seems invisible.


I saw both, and I thank both of you. Of course, a word can have more than one meaning, depending on the context in which it is used. I was overlooking the context.

I agree that the context, in this case, refers to the ordinary (meaning “normal”) authority of the Office of Peter, without implying that there is some other “extraordinary” authority (other than, perhaps, God, as others have suggested).

I agree. Question answered, I think.

I agree as well. As the OP, I implore Michael Francis to close this thread. Question Answered - Thread Closed.

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